Social networking sites: The next big thing in politics

The influence of social-networking sites on political campaigns is growing, experts say.

Social networking Web sites such as MySpace and YouTube are already having a major impact on the way political campaigns are run, but a group of social-network experts had a hard time predicting Friday just what applications will best connect with voters in future elections.

All of the creators of social-network sites speaking at a conference on "person-to-person-to-person" networking and its effect on campaigns seemed to agree that politicians need to pay attention to "consumer-created media," a term that some participants objected to.

The rise of MySpace, Facebook and other social-networking sites are making the controlled, broadcast-style way of distributing political information obsolete, said Henry Copeland, president and founder of Blogads, an advertising service for blogs. "The people we're dealing with today are no longer 'consumers,' they're participants," Copeland said at the conference, hosted by the George Washington University Institute for Politics, Democracy and the Internet.

Politicians who ignore the impact of blogs and other social-networking sites will miss a huge number of potential voters, said Tom Gerace, founder and chief executive officer of Gather.com, which he billed as MySpace for grown-ups. MySpace, which boasts 108 million profiles created by members, already reaches more people each day than CNN.com or NYTimes.com, he said.

"If you just play in the traditional media, you're missing most of your audience today -- not 10 years down the road, but today," Gerace said.

MySpace has more than 7,400 discussion groups related to politics. Candidates such as former Democratic presidential candidate Wesley Clark, Nevada Democratic senatorial candidate Jack Carter and Arizona Republican Senator John McCain either have created their own pages or have supporter-created pages there.

MySpace also has user groups devoted to the "truth" about the U.S. government's involvement in the 9/11 attacks, the legalization of marijuana and the claim that Republicans are better in bed.

Smart politicians will harness the power of social-networking sites, especially the ability to run videos within them, said Jeff Berman, senior vice president for public affairs at MySpace. Politicians are just beginning to tap into the potential of social-networking sites, he said.

For example, when a popular music group debuts a new song on MySpace, it could raise awareness for a political campaign just by having links to its pages on its MySpace site, he said.

"It just makes sense [for politicians] to be there," he said. "This is influencer marketing."

Smart politicians should also begin to realize that citizens journalists armed with video cameras or a blog platform are beginning to show up everywhere, speakers said. In August, Senator George Allen, a Virginia Republican in a tough campaign for re-election, was caught on video calling an Indian-American man working for his opponent "macaca." Macaca is a species of monkey, but Allen said he didn't know that.

But asked about the future impact of social-networking sites on campaigns, conference participants hesitated to predict. "Anybody who tells you they know where this space is heading right now is lying," said John de Tar, co-founder of HotSoup.com.

One audience member questioned if the increasing influence of social-networking sites was a positive development in a world where 9/11 conspiracy discussion groups get the same play as serious candidates. There's "mass production of nonsense in politics," the man said.

But Chuck deFeo, general manager of Townhall.com, disagreed. "It's healthy for democracy for more voices to be heard," he said. "People get more involved in politics."

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Grant Gross

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?