Social Media and the Future of Democracy Part One: Brands Aren’t About People – Democracy Is

Recently, I attended a session at the Brookings Institution called “How Social Networking Can Reinvigorate American Democracy and Civic Participation.” It was an interesting panel made up of campaign consultants, academics and a representative from The White House. From the discussion, it was obvious that all of these stakeholders have thought extremely in-depth about what technology can and is doing to change the way our democracy works. With internet access increasing every day, it isn’t out of the question that one day all votes would come through the internet, for example.

Currently, and with obvious exceptions, much of the technological innovation in the political sphere comes out of the campaign side. But it’s clear that those inside the House and Senate are moving in this direction as well. The demands for content are changing every single day, with videos, audio, and live-stream events at the forefront of interest. Quora is also taking a lot of interesting turns, delivering real-time questioning and feedback that is a perfect way to get the exact answers constituents want.

The panel covered these topics, and many more. In this three-part blog, I’ll reveal the main take-aways that are the most relevant to you, our clients.

Brands aren’t about people — democracy is.

This statement rings quite true and it’s a concept I’ve thought a lot about recently. The fact that someone can log on to Facebook and tell Coca-Cola that they love/hate their product is amazing. But just as some products try to invade into people’s lives, the same can happen for Representatives. The reality is that some issues will hit home with people and some ways of asking them to sign up will work. But not everyone is going to sign up for an email newsletter because you send them to a form. What’s the incentive? What’s the real reason a constituent wants yet another email from my representative? If I am going to sign up for an eNewsletter, what do I get out of it? These are questions to think about constantly as a Congressional communicator.

The quick bottom line: Connect with people above all else.

Next in the series: Trust is moving away from large institutions and toward social networks.

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