Social Media and Politics

I had the pleasure of participating in Social Media Club of Boston’s “Civics, Social Media and the Countdown to Election ‘08” on February 7 at Harvard’s Institute of Politics. While I was excited about the meeting, I almost avoided it to hear Ségolène Royal, the former French presidential candidate, who was speaking in the room next door!

The meeting included a panel comprised of Morra Aarons-Mele, political director of, the largest site for women bloggers, with over 5.5 million unique visitors a month; Joseph Carrabis, founder and chief research officer of NextStage Evolution and NextStage Global, author of 23 books and over 300 articles, and a master at analyzing marketing, media and customer (audience) behavior; and Robert Boyle, founder of Glassbooth, an organization created to develop innovative tools to empower the American voter. Glassbooth’s first tool,, was launched last November and was instantly a critical success – check out this site’s brief quiz and see if your preferred candidate actually shares as many beliefs with you as you might think.

The meeting addressed numerous issues related to social media, including: privacy vs. anonymity, the dark sides of social media, the way social media can extend the news cycle (for better or worse), the lack of issue-based analysis in traditional media in the US, and US journalism vs. global journalism.

Among the many kernels of knowledge and wisdom shared by panelists and attendees (who included some amazing social media pioneers, such as video blogger Steve Garfield) was the fact that research shows that most voters actually did not vote for the candidate who most strongly agreed with them on the issues in recent elections. Apparently, most voters end up supporting the person who presents information in the way that they prefer to have information presented, rather than the person whose beliefs and record most strongly align with their own.

While I find such results depressing, it does support the notion that marketing is critical, no matter what your product, service or message. Some politicians might think, “If I say it, they will listen,” just as engineers might think, “If I build it, they will come.” Until these become true (and it might be a better world if they were), we will have jobs marketing, packaging and presenting information to our audiences, touching their specific emotional triggers and producing the desired behavior. Fortunately for us, in B2B marketing communications, we work hard to translate a message into words and images that clarify the content for the audience, and we aren’t asked to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes!


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  1. Hello and thanks for the nod. Your readers may be interested in learning about NextStage’s online tool that analyzes political content and reports on several of the items we discussed during that meeting. Just an FYI.

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