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Massachusetts Senate Race… Social Media Success or Failure?

While there has been plenty of coverage of this topic, and much more to come, I wanted to briefly weigh in. As you know, I had a very short Social Debate underway with both the Martha Coakley and Scott Brown campaign. In my opinion, this social-media-driven debate was clearly won by the Martha Coakley campaign. Scott Brown used Twitter almost exclusively for broadcasting where the Coakley campaign used it, at least somewhat, as a two-way communication vehicle.

While I will admit that the “debate” fails to provide a large enough test set, it does make me wonder… If Martha Coakley was the only candidate engaging on Social Media, why didn’t she win the campaign?

Take a moment and review the following article from adAge, Coakley Ignores Obama’s Digital-Media Playbook in Massachusetts. This paragraph sums it up.

“It’s not yet clear how visibility in social media translates to votes (even Mr. Obama’s camp credited e-mail and direct marketing as the most effective online tactic), but Mr. Brown has been aggressive on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, while Ms. Coakley has been, well, nowhere. On Twitter, @scottbrownMA has 10,765 followers vs. @MarthaCoakley with 3,657; on Facebook, it’s 83,535 friends to 15,573; and on YouTube, Mr. Brown has a souped-up channel with 675,208 views, while videos posted by the Coakley campaign have been viewed 76,805 times.”

Personally, I still feel that social media is simply another channel, it does not yet reflect any large cultural shifts. I asked others what they thought, here were the responses:

@Lin_Dolin: @MarthaCoakley did not lose b/c of social media, lost b/c she did not connect w/pple off-line (u no, connect off, connect on)
@jeaniecw I believe it did. SM people are more likely to rally offline, too, IMHO. I bet the Twitter Brown campaign lit a fire.
@eric_andersen no, don’t think so – political minds and hearts still won over via commercials, TV, other mainstream news sources
I tend to agree with @eric_andersen and @lin_dolin. Coakley did not lose because of her social media campaign nor did Scott Brown win because of his. These additional channels were most effectively used by Brown to “get the word” out and that is still the most important aspect of marketing a politician today.

What do you think? Is social media making an impact on politics in America, or anywhere else for that matter?


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John Moore

Absolutely. As I noted to someone else who I chatted with, could care less (for the sake of my writing anyway) which candidate wins or loses. I do care to see the strategies become more focused on broader engagement, citizen involvement. It is happening slowly but I know we’ll all be participating.


John C. Heinley, P.E.

You can’t gain massive support in social media unless there are masses willing to support you, which requires a message and direction that resonates and has substance, and a tone that shows you’re listening, too. Nor does it hurt when the opponent is a gaffe-machine, that they are supported by a ‘machine’ that pays people to hold a sign – but where those people support the other candidate, and when a high-ranking supporter confirms their support for an unpopular bill.

George Ritacco

The question is whether or not Brown’s social media campaign was a success. The answer is – emphatically YES. Do the math – and start with 85,000 Facebook friends. Then – thinking exponentially – think through the number of potential “exposures” based on the “friends of friends” matrix and so on – and you have the basis for massive exposure. Obviously – we cannot distinctly say that Brown won because of Facebook or Twitter. But we cannot deny the influence our friends, family and social networks have on all of us. The goal is to craft a powerful message, grow your fan base with evangelists and allow them to help you spread the word.

I will not say that he won just because of it – but it certainly helped. The Facebook phenomenon and the matrix-like connectivity of social media platforms with continue to influence and change the landscape of all future campaigns.