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This Election 2012 the Candidates Will Be Following You, Thanks to Social Media

This Election 2012 the Candidates Will Be Following You, Thanks to Social Media

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    President Barack Obama holds a town hall meeting at the Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah, Iowa, on the first day of a three-day bus tour in the Midwest, Aug. 15, 2011. (Credit: Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

  • Election 2012 is gearing up to be the first real social/mobile election. It is not just the media ramping up their use of social and mobile tools, but the candidates, polling companies and -- of course -- the citizens. If 2008 was the year of microdonations coming off mobile phones, 2012 is shaping up to be the year that geolocation services, global positioning satellite and push-pull information exchange will dominate election technology.

    This past week we saw the first hint of the power of social media when combined with election politics. CNN ran a high energy media campaign around the social media tools it deployed during the debate on June 13, 2011 when they used Twitter as a feedback loop and other social media to crowdsource questions. It was an interesting practice, but this is really just a first step.

    While this depth of information could be used in multiple ways, this past debate saw a basic usage where only a few quotes and questions from Twitter users were generated. The Twitter search for#cnndebate contained interesting material, but was also filled with retweeting. What was missing was direct engagement from citizens with the debaters and/or the moderator. Obviously that would be hard to manage, but the beauty of a social media feedback loop is that the technology can allow it.

    Additionally, the ability of campaigns to have huge amounts of data that can be microdiced into almost any potential personal marketing platform will change fundraising and engagement with voters dramatically. In other words, for a price, campaigns can buy the same data that marketers purchase based on your online life. They can then tailor fundraising and policy pitches to those that seem "receptive" to those messages based on social, mobile and other online interest factors.

    Think about when you retweet a candidate or campaign. They will recognize you as an "influencer." Take the opposite approach and write a blog taking down one of the candidates on a policy position. You will quickly be recognized as potentially hostile, and the campaign has the ability to create a following of people just to monitor your coverage of the candidate or campaign.

    While President Obama garnered a lot of attention for his "groundbreaking" social media applications and tools during 2008, it is clear that he will not be the only candidate using these techniques. In addition, there are new ways to break down important voter data to tell campaigns who is interested, who is not and who is listening.

    Just in the past election cycle of 2010, there were important new use models created by campaigns using social media and mobile tools. This will keep evolving as the tools become both more ubiquitous and more capable. "Moore's Law" is working its magic with social media and mobility, and smaller tools getting more powerful, and faster.

    What are the implications? It goes far beyond the feedback loop used in the CNN debate. It gets into such areas such as candidates using geolocation tools to further microslice up their message according to smaller areas while still maintaining the broader message for their full constituency. Campaigns will be using SMS messages tied to geolocation services to remind youto vote on Election Day. You can count on double the messages past noon on Election Day ifyou have not voted yet. And the fundraising pitches? Look for them in every social doorway, on your mobile phone, in your email and even snail mail. Someone has to pay for all this social media goodness, and guess who it is?

    Here is something to ponder as you follow social updates, get involved in your own social debates and engage with your candidates through various social media and mobile applications: What percentage of the decision to vote will be done through advanced, real-time mobile conversations flowing between campaigns and people's pockets?

    Alan is the CEO of Silberberg Innovations and found of Gov20LA and a Principal Analyst with Constellation Research Group. He blogs once a week for What's Trending about politics online.

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