Control of the House of Representatives is within reach for Republicans, and social media — particularly Facebook — could be the accelerant it needs to achieve their goal. “With new media at hand, elections become a time for innovation, and online engagement can lead to enormous influence,” writes Mashable. With 41 percent of Californian voters using Facebook – 16 percent are on it daily – 57 percent read news and political information on the site and 40 percent forward that news to others in their social network. If California is a model for the rest of the country, Facebook can be leveraged more than ever to fund raise, hear voter concerns, discover new candidates and increasingly, connect through mobile devices.
Facebook, and innovative developers have created a suite of new tools to deepen its relationships with voters, help undecideds explore politicians and be the hub of political news. Oh My Gov hosts polls to measure the voter sentiment on hot-button political issues – particularly as it relates to social media. One polls asks whether there should be a social network exclusively for government employees. (The majority of voters say such a network scares them.) And Facebook is branching out beyond polls and fan pages to become a hub of political information. The social network is streaming live reports from ABC News on election night from its Facebook HQ. And if you’re not sure who you should vote for, Facebook created an app to discover new politicians. Facebook Browser enables users to explore politicians, political parties and groups.
Predictor of Elections
To give you an idea of how intertwined politics is in Facebook, the social networking site recently created a page dedicated to how politicians use the social network, called Facebook US Politics. The site has become the high school popularity contest and potentially the predictor of elections – and Republicans have a strong chance of being crowned prom king. The GOPs fan growth rate over the summer increased by 35 percent over Democrats’ 22 percent, with Republican Congressional incumbents garnering 2,148,619 fans as of Aug. 31, dwarfing Democrats’ 952,847 fans, reports Oh My Gov. The Facebook momentum could be a strong predictor of the November outcome.
How the GOP is the King of Facebook
There has been an undercurrent of frustration with the Democratic party to pass meaningful legislation, and their social media strategy might be another example of that frustration. “The Democrats seem to be sticking with the tactics that brought them into power, whereas the GOP, as the challenger, is exploring more innovative ways to tap the power of new media,” said Shana Glickfield, co-founder of the BeeKeeper Group, a Washington, DC public affairs firm. “Both are effective and embrace the strengths of technology and community, but I see the Republicans getting the added bonus of attracting blogger and mainstream media attention for innovating in the campaign space.”
Republicans have truly dialed up their social media efforts. The GOP launched an awareness campaign that implemented more than 22,000 widgets across the blogosphere. Their efforts spilled onto Facebook and went viral — turning the awareness campaign into a full-on fund raiser, netting the GOP $1.6 million, including eight donations of $16,200 a piece.
The Obama 08 election was one of the first grass roots Facebook campaigns, where supporters came out of the woodwork to raise money. This year, Democrats are more about face-to-face interaction. “Our end goal is to make a turn-out happen,” said Natalie Foster, director of new media for the DNC. “Our online innovations are driven towards that: Boots on the ground and face-to-face interactions. We use those for organizing and messaging via dialogue.”
“This RNC listens to folks,” said Todd Herman, chief digital strategist, Republican National Committee. “We insisted on a listening platform. It’s not at all unusual for [Chairman] Michael Steele to ask me to put him in touch with a participant on our gop.com site or on Twitter.”
Democrats are looking for some painful hits come November if Facebook has anything to say about it. The social network is transforming into a political powerhouse and most interestingly, a measure of political power. With Republicans winning the popularity contest last summer, Democrats need to remember what mobilized them in 08.