On Politicians, Social Media And Obama (with diagrams!)


So my social media homeysita Teresa Valdez Klein blogged over at Web Community Forum the following
In their new book, Groundswell, Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff outline five major objectives in online community building: listening, talking, energizing, supporting, embracing

    If I had to wager, I’d say that the candidates’ efforts on Linkedin fall neatly into the second category. It’s unlikely that the candidates are actually paying attention to the thousands of responses pouring in, but that’s a smaller part of the political equation. The important thing from where the campaigns stand is that these outreach strategies make people feel heard. But, as we online community geeks all know, there’s a big difference between making people feel heard and actually hearing them.

    Good point, but I'd like to extend it.

    I haven't read Li's book yet (though I have it thanks to you, Teresa), but I have been working on a response to BL Ochman who thinks Obama's not using the Internet well at all in terms of empowering people. I'm not lumping Teresa and BL into the same boat, but I'll respond to both with a part of my view on political campaigns and social media.

    Let's start with Talking 2.0

    Politicians and Social Media 1: Talking 2.0


    In this part, politicians with their big heads and big mouths sit on the top, get on TwitterSpaceBookTube, collect a bunch of friends and broadcast their message in a very direct mail sort of way. It's just like direct mail, except the people build their lists on their own. It's advertising beyond 30-seconds and much better targeted.

    Now, Fundraising 2.0

    Politicians and Social Media 2: Fundraising 2.0


    Again, politicians are at the top of the heap, this time tapping into millions of small donors. Obama is the king of this right now. At this phase, politicians enable donors to solicit from other donors with their own mini-campaigns and donation widgets. This is significant, as it threatens the big time financial interests who've long held the ear (and balls) of our elected officials.

    Listening 2.0

    I don't have a picture here, but just invert the talking image: lots of voices and ideas from the people slapping the politician upside the head. Teresa's LinkedIn post is taking a look at this. Everyone using the web for this purpose has a ways to go. The wiki model has proven most effective at integrating contributions from the multitudes into a coherent work. Will we ever have a wikitician? a wikiacracy?

    I know Obama has a form on his site to collect ideas and feedback on his various posted policies. I have no idea what happens to that. Do they go to advisors, interns, /dev/null? Not sure.

    What I do know is that the next layer is essential to reaching a point where campaigns and politicians can meaningfully integrate all that they are hearing from voters and supporters..

    Community-Building 2.0

    Politicians and Social Media 1.0 - Community Building


    This is a very different picture. The politician isn't necessarily at the top. They are at the center, because it is around them that civic activity is happening, but people's attention isn't solely focused on listening to the politician, giving money to the politician or even talking to the politician. To extend Tereas's line, "as we online community geeks all know, there’s a big difference between making people feel heard and actually hearing them" and enabling them to hear each other.

    People are talking to other people. The politician/campaign/organization is the hub of this activity but not necessarily the top. They provide tools, however, which allow people to identify and find each other. They provide materials. On Obama's site, this is the my.barackobama.com social network tool. I've seen volunteers from NYC take this tool and use it to organize dinner parties, trips to Virginia and Pennsylvania and more.

    Folks looking to help out turn here to find activity in or near their zipcode.

    The politician, in this case Obama, has inspired or enabled communities to form and to take action. Today that action is focused on getting this candidate elected, but what I'm really excited about is how this carries on into the actual governing.

    There are promising signs from the Obama campaign that they will do more than any president in history or any candidate running to bring active citizens and community into our government. I've written on that here:
    if Obama's campaign is successful, it will be because we are successful, and if that happens, I envision a country in which people are more engaged in their government and society and thus check the power of those who already have unfettered access. I know the power of this inspiration because it has touched me and made me committed to seeing it happen in my small sphere of influence.

    If his revolutionary open government and technology plan and government ethics plan (for the love of god, read it!) comes to pass, we will have more visibility and input into the (corrupt) workings of our government than ever before, and it will be up to us to act on that new information. (BTW, compare that to this assessment of Hillary's tech/communications plan. It pales). With the searchable government spending database he spearheaded (use it!), we may find that the obscenity of our budgetary priorities is so readily available, we have no choice but to protest it.

    Obama's platform is not just about his positions. It's about the tools and infrastructure he's offering directly to the citizens of this country. Forget for a moment who speaks in a most commanding fashion about the particulars of health care legislation. Forget about beautiful language or alleged experience. Look at what President Obama offers all of us: empowerment. Empowerment like we've never seen. Power we forgot we had. Power that a community organizer trained on the streets of Chicago would recognize in a heartbeat. We may not get an opportunity like this for several decades!

    Look, I am under no illusions about the forces that wield the true power in this country, but what has been restored by Obama's campaign is my faith (and go ahead, say it, "hope") and knowledge that true power is still held by the people, and that we the people can use more of that power under President Obama than under any other. By far.

    These Obama proposals offer unprecedented access to the workings of government for the common citizen. Searchable databases of federal department documents and activities and data, comment periods on non-emergency legislation, streaming video of important meetings. It's hard for citizens to act intelligently without information, and I'm impressed that Obama sees the value in opening the doors.

    That's the exciting thing for me. Not so much knowing that a candidate actually reads my posts on twitter, but knowing that I can collaborate with my fellow citizens in keeping an eye on government and in building solutions to some of the pressing problems we face.

    As always, Fired Up!