This week I will be honored to take part in a “P.R. of Politics” panel discussion that includes ETSU Public Relations Professor Dr. John King, Johnson City Press Opinion Page Editor Robert Houk, Ron Scalf, Publisher of Out N’About Magazine and myself. (Scalf previously worked on Tennessee Senator Bob Corker’s senatorial campaign.) My portion of the discussion deals with the social media strategies of the two candidates who are running for president of the United States. Here are some of the fascinating things I uncovered in my research with credit to USA Today, Al Jazeera, Economic Times, Huffington Post and The Today Show.

In addition to shaking hands, giving speeches and kissing babies, Economic Times says politicians must now have a “complimentary online strategy.” This is invaluable for the one third of American adults under 30 who get their news from social networks. As an example of how social networking is revolutionizing the way we communicate in politics, there were 10 million tweets during the first presidential debate which has been called called “the most tweeted about event in U.S. Politics.”

According to USA Today those who embrace changes in the media and communications technologies generally end up victorious. Examples cited by Al Jazeera include FDR embracing the medium of radio, JFK understanding TV and Reagan, the former professional actor,  was the first to embrace the “look and feel” of a campaign. In 2008 Obama capitalized on “the new media.”  And how does that look in 2012? If an election were held on social media “likes” and “tweets” alone Obama would be the easy winner. The President’s Facebook likes (30.8 million to Romney’s 9.3 million) or twitter followers (20.8 million to 1.4 million). However, given the weight that the “old fashioned” televised first debate had for the Romney campaign (70 percent of those polled said Romney won) we have to ask ourselves: Will “likes” and “tweets” convert to votes on November 6?

Al Jazeera points out that neither candidate is using social media in its truly social form. with candidates responding directly to citizens and citizens able to post content etc. The new media is still being used to raise money for the old media of TV advertising. Will this be the last time around for the power of traditional TV ads that already are losing their hold on the next generation?

Even the candidate’s wives are jumping in with Michelle Obama and Ann Romney’s Pinterest pages showcasing their favorite recipes. The candidates’ have YouTube videos and quirky Tumbler graphics with their moving gif heads.  The Obama team created share-able graphics following the “big bird” comment from the first debate and the “empty chair” Clint Eastwood monologue while the Romneys tend to showcase behind-the-scenes family photos.

The Today Show reported that data mining experts break down Obama and Romney followers into two distinct camps and they even know whether their supporters like smooth jazz or Samuel Adams beer! Who would have thought that four years ago?

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photo credit: sandcastlematt via photopin cc

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