Surprise: Technology and campaigning will be different than 4 years ago

Is anyone surprised that presidential campaigning, particularly online communication, is going to look and feel different in 2012 than it did in 2008? My god, even the simple act of reading news online is wildly different now than it was then. From the Star Tribune:

The 2012 campaign wars will be waged in ways that were unimaginable in the last presidential race. From the rise of social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter to the use of “geo-targeting” through mobile phones and search engines, 2012 presidential candidates have powerful tools to track down supporters and keep them engaged.

“It’s easy to forget that when the 2008 presidential was getting started, Facebook and Twitter were barely a factor,” said Mindy Finn, Pawlenty’s new media adviser. “The big shift that’s occurred since then is the growth of participation on social networking sites … half of Americans are on Facebook.”

Search and social networking websites like Google have responded by staffing politics teams in Washington. Facebook recently hired a second person for the 2012 campaign.

But online campaigning isn’t all fun and games. Relying on social networks like Facebook and Twitter cedes some control of the message, as commenters have free rein to attack and criticize. And technical snafus can become a public embarrassment, as Bachmann found out last month when a Facebook town hall event suffered technical difficulties.

Wait, wait, wait. “Cedes some control”?! That’s been the naysayers’ go-to criticism of online communication since the invention of the discussion forum, and it’s as short-sighted today as it was then. Especially in the world of politics, which is such a cacophonous environment anyway — there’s no shortage of other voices and other forums in which people can criticize or support a candidate’s message.

Look at it this way: Critics are everywhere. By establishing, say, a Facebook page for your campaign, you’re not giving commenters “free rein to attack and criticize” (they already have that). You’re building a community of people who will help debate — and sometimes simply shout down — those attacking commenters.

Still, the last two presidential elections have each pushed the bar higher for online campaigning. In 2004 it was Howard Dean’s online fundraising; in 2008 Obama’s online organizing and use of text messages.

The Pawlenty campaign hopes it can make its mark on 2012.

And the story closes with a graf that likely appeared word for word in a similar story nearly a decade ago (save for the Pawlenty-for-president reference):

He still has to do the traditional things to win supporters: speeches, shaking hands, television appearances. But now Pawlenty and other upstart candidates can ask for money or get a message out across the country with the click of a mouse button — and at a fraction of the cost of buying TV time. Said Finn: “The value of engaging online is not proportional to the amount of money spent on it.”

5 thoughts on “Surprise: Technology and campaigning will be different than 4 years ago

  1. Festus says:

    Marshall McCluhan:
    >blockquote>Instead of tending towards a vast Alexandrian library the world has become a computer, an electronic brain, exactly as an infantile piece of science fiction. And as our senses have gone outside us, Big Brother goes inside. So, unless aware of this dynamic, we shall at once move into a phase of panic terrors, exactly befitting a small world of tribal drums, total interdependence, and superimposed co-existence. […] Terror is the normal state of any oral society, for in it everything affects everything all the time. […] In our long striving to recover for the Western world a unity of sensibility and of thought and feeling we have no more been prepared to accept the tribal consequences of such unity than we were ready for the fragmentation of the human psyche by print culture. [Gutenberg Galaxy]

    Fred McCluhan:

    Pawlenty is a tweet

  2. Jim Leinfelder says:

    I would no more look to any candidate’s Facebook page, or the equivalent, to educate myself about a candidate’s worthiness for the office they seek than I would rely on the Facebook site for a newly-released film to decide if I want to go see it.

    I will continue to seek out whatever version of ‘journalism’ is surviving to vet these people, not their hired branding experts and 20-something website architects and social networking consultants.

  3. Bruce Benidt says:

    Seems as if people running for jobs in a democracy — or at least their communications advisers — are afraid of democracy.

    1. Afraid of it, or maybe they just don’t understand that, no matter what they do or don’t do, democracy — and these conversations that fuel that democracy — is happening anyway.

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