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Social Media and elections

October 5, 2009

When President Obama first declared his candidacy there was still a long way to go. Not many people believed the young Senator from Illinois had a chance against seasoned Senator Clinton. But, then with help from technology and social media he was able to connect directly with voters and build a grassroots organization. He wasn’t the first to utilize social media, but he was the first to perfect it.

This special U.S. Senate election marks the first important election since the President beat Senator John McCain. After watching President Obama soar high above other candidates using facebook and myspace, I thought these candidates would be taking hold of this incredible power and running with it.

However, so far I am disappointed. Looking through three of the websites candidates are using makes me feel like I’m back in 2004. Surely, I thought they would be a step up and actually interactive.

The only thing I like about Democratic candidate Martha Coakley’s website is the background color. There is an “about me” section with way too much text and not enough interaction. Not many people actually read bios anymore. Coakley’s video gallery is hidden far away in a hard to find link. Videos should not be hidden. Videos capture the public’s attention. We all lament that this generation is visually stimulated; but, it’s time to stop lamenting and jump on the bandwagon.

I lied; aside from her background color I think her “contribution” button in bright red is a fantastic idea.

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Democratic candidate Mike Capuano’s website is headed in the right direction. It seems easier on the eyes with more interactive parts to it. I don’t have to go fishing through his website to find videos. He has a video on the homepage instead of lengthy text. Again, visual stimulation is key. Capuano has more links to connect to other social media than Coakley has and that’s a plus.

So far my biggest pet peeve was on the republican candidate Scott Brown’s website. It really didn’t have to do with his website, but more with how I found it. If you google Scott Brown the first link on the list is his state senate website. At first I was deeply confused and then I figured it out. In order to get to his campaign website you have to search for Scott Brown campaign. I’m sorry, but that’s annoying. Aside from this, I definitely liked his website the most. I’m a huge twitter fan and I like the fact that his twitter feed is on the home page. It has the social networking sites as well as a huge “contribute” button that I’m sure people will not miss. He has a picture that gives off the typical “I’m a good guy, despite being a politician,” vibe, but there is also a video.

All of these candidates need to find a way to make their “Issues” section more interesting. All candidates also fail in the newsletter department. Coakley fails the most for not realizing her sign ups are being fed to Capuano’s camp.

President Obama had an entire two years to campaign and get this social media thing right… I’m not sure these candidates will get this right in such a short amount of time. Hopefully, they can.

If they can harvest the power of social media, they can do great things.

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