It is long past time that we stop talking about which social networks to use for this campaign or that. When it comes to targeting audiences, what matters more than which networks people use is how they use them in combination and to what end.
Before the Greek Gods ascended to Mount Olympus, the Titans ruled the heavens. Among them was Prometheus, who gave humanity the power of fire. And with fire, humans became masters of their own destiny… to some degree. When it comes to the world of digital democracy, where the “gods” include Facebook, Twitter, Capwiz , Salsa, Care2 and Change.org, the Titans that preceded them included Daniel Bennett (@CitizenContact) and Steve Clift (@Democracy) . These “Titans of Digital Democracy” were responsible for creating the foundations that citizens and government use to engage with each other online. And with these foundations, we have become the masters of our own political destiny… to some degree.
The long presidential campaign season is upon us and the media is filling up with stories about how social media is changing politics. And perhaps because bad news always seems to sell better, many of these stories take a dim view of the impact. They focus on the risks candidates face from getting caught saying bad things on video and how those videos can spread like wildfire through social media. They point out how social media may be trivializing politics. But few of these articles talk about the potential for social media to increase political efficacy. And that is something the media should consider covering.
We now have four official candidates for the 2016 presidential nomination, three Republicans and one Democrat. Each of them used Twitter to promote their announcements. How they used it varies tremendously among them. It is too soon to tell if their initial Twitter splash ( twash ?) is indicative of things to come, but the contrasts in tactics and results are striking.
I spent this past weekend at the opening of the Philadelphia Independent Film Festival . Among the many films screening there are documentaries advocating for some official policy action. One of these films is a short documentary by Jet Wintzer about all of the statues, elementary schools and parks named after Albert Pike. Wintzer makes a strong case in the film, National Scars: The Albert Pike Monuments , that we should not be using Pike’s name on these nor should we use public funds to maintain them. The film is good, but there is more that can be done to advance the director’s cause.
This past week, the White House’s social media team reinvented the twitterbomb with a tweet slyly directed at Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu. By repurposing Netanyahu’s now famous bomb infographic used for Bibi’s 2012 speech at the United Nations, the Obama Administration simultaneously promoted its recent framework agreement with Iran over its nuclear program, created some highly “snackable” social media content and (indirectly) engaged Netanyahu via Twitter.
Did you tweet something in the past that might cause you to lose your job? Will you tweet something tomorrow that will do that? These are the questions of the week. And the answers are affecting political candidates’ ability to hire social media strategists. Controversial tweets also created heat for Jon Stewart’s successor on The Daily Show , Trevor Noah. But just how serious an issue is this?
Two titans of social media, Anonymous and ISIS, are at war with each other. ISIS, as we now know thanks to a methodologically robust study from the Brookings Institute , has become a major force on Twitter with more than 25,000 active Twitter accounts (from among as many as 90,000 total accounts created) supporting its propaganda efforts. Anonymous is, in the words of V, legion and has set its sights on dismantling ISIS’s digital capacity.
Normally, I would say that before a corporation launches a campaign to create a conversation around a controversial topic, it should get all of its ducks in a row. It should be sure to identify all the ways that conversation can go wrong. And it should be sure to inoculate itself against pushback by ensuring that its own policies and accomplishments related to the topic are well publicized. If these analyses don’t raise any insurmountable red flags, then the company should press ahead. With these considerations in mind, let’s look at what happened this past week with Starbucks’ #RaceTogether campaign.
On a lark, I looked up the 1955 roster for the World Series champion Brooklyn Dodgers. As many of you may know, Jackie Robinson was number 42 on that roster. Why did I look it up? I wanted to see who was number 47 on that team. Why number 47? Because lately, it seems that the number 47 is out to destroy the Republican Party.