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What Impact Will Social Media Have on the 2012 Elections?

A couple weeks ago, the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) asked me to share my perspective on the elections this fall and the role that social media will play in the outcomes. The full interview can be found here, but I wanted to share some relevant excerpts below and get some conversation going on GovLoop as well.

State Legislatures: How much more widespread do you think the use of social media will be in the 2012 election?

Krzmarzick: At this stage of the game, I think it’s fair to say that social media is a critical component of any serious candidate’s communications plan. Those campaigns that fail to use social media, mobile apps, text messaging and other forms of connecting with the public will face a significant disadvantage against an opponent with a comprehensive digital engagement approach—even if that candidate has less money.

SL: Do voters consider social media a relevant source for information?

Krzmarzick: Traditional media are still the most trusted source of information about political candidates. While some bloggers have enough street cred to report on campaigns, the most effective outlets for the latest developments in a political cycle are traditional vehicles: newspapers, television and their corresponding websites. But the clear differentiator among those players is how they attract readers to their stories. That’s where social media plays a vital role.

SL: How important is it for candidates to continue their presence and use of social media after the election?

Krzmarzick: What got you there is what keeps you there. It’s no different from in-person communication. Compare it to dating: If I spend an enormous amount of time to win the heart of someone in those early months when we’re getting to know one another, but then stop once we’re engaged or married, I lose trust in the relationship…

One very important caution: candidates need to make every effort to attach the social media channels to the office and not the officeholder. Too many candidates and elected officials are creating profiles and pages that are tied to the person vs. the public office. In other words, it’s the official site of Representative Smith vs. the 12th Congressional District. Public officeholders rent that online space, but most of them act like they own it…

Again, I’d encourage you to read the full interview, but also I’d like to know:

How will social media be used by politicians this year?

Will it influence your voting behavior?

How should it be used responsibly by officeholders once they’re elected?


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Ari Herzog

Say what, Andy?

Why must candidates “attach the social media channels to the office and not the officeholder?” If I “like” a Facebook page, I am liking the person.

Andrew Krzmarzick

Ari – this is critical. As a city councilmember, you should have separate social media accounts for (1) you personally and (2) your role as an elected official. The second should be a place that you occupy for the period that you hold the office, but once you cease to be the elected officeholder, it should be transferred to your successor – like turning over the keys to a car (with no extra set in your pocket). If not, what happens to all the dialogue that you held with citizens? Who “owns” it? They do…not you. Not any elected official. It’s public record. It’s not “Ari’s diary of my time in office” that you could delete or embellish at will. Make sense?

Ari Herzog

I maintain a separate blog and email newsletter; but if you want to be my Facebook friend, whether or not you are a constituent, you can be my friend.

As far as successors, that might be true for mayors and members of congress but not for city councils.

Andrew Krzmarzick

That’s great, Ari. And I think that’s the winning formula.

We have threaded in forums…let me check on blogs.