Let the Social Election Begin: As Candidates Take to Social Media, Journalists’ Coverage Must Keep Up
Washington’s going to be quiet for several weeks now that Congress is out of session, allowing candidates to campaign in their home states for the November midterms.
But if candidates are socially plugged in, journalists and bloggers won’t miss a thing thanks to the power and immediacy of social media.
Michael Pagan, campaign manager for Jim Tedesco, former Paramus, NJ mayor who’s running for Bergen County Executive, says it’s vital that candidates go above and beyond the call of duty when it comes to social media.
“New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio really changed the game when he refused to do a single mailing and focused his efforts on TV, radio, and social media,” Pagan said. “You can’t win unless you are very active on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and other social media outlets.”
Gone are the days of a reporter filing just one report daily from the campaign trail.
Now, campaigns are live on the Internet, says Chris Bender, director of government and public affairs with Novozymes North America.
You can visit Facebook or Twitter and see what’s happening on the ground in a particular district or state.
“That’s both good and bad,” Bender said. “It’s good because candidates like to get their message right to their base and, more importantly, be able to target swing voters they think they can move. It’s bad because if you make a mistake, you’re smoked because it’s spread before you know it and then it’s spread further before you can fix it.”
CQ Roll Call Heard on the Hill columnist Warren Rojas knows exactly what Bender is referring to.
Keeping a close eye to social media just is part of his routine. Occasionally, a gem falls out of the sky.
“The breadth and speed at which politicos can shoot themselves in the foot now is unbelievable,” Rojas said. “I swear some people think Twitter is private – like it’s email and only their friends can see it. If you really don’t want this information out there, do not post it anywhere. But some people still don’t get it.”
Other organizations are disciplined – and transparent – with their social media approach.
On Twitter, Rojas said you pretty much know who’s tweeting over @WhiteHouse.
Most of the time, it’s the press office. But President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama add their initials to tweets they personally tweeted. Like this example.
As far as new tools consumers are using to keep an eye on the midterms, there’s one newish site that uses statistical analysis and hard numbers to tell compelling stories about politics, science, economics, and sports. Already, it’s got quite a following.
FiveThirtyEight was a blog created by analyst Nate Silver. It was newly launched at ESPN in March.
And while midterm elections don’t bring out the kind of journalist and blogger engagement – or voter turnout – that a presidential election commands, journalists still are covering candidates’ every move.
“During midterms, political operatives absolutely have to work harder to get their candidates into the media than they would during a presidential year,” Pagan said. “It’s something we’re used to, but that doesn’t mean we don’t try new and creative ways to get reporters to write about our bosses more.”
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Christine Cube is a media relations manager with PR Newswire and freelance writer. Follow her @cpcube.