As the 2008 US Presidential election has heated up since August I have noticed a change in social media, especially on my favorite microblogging service, Twitter.

There are several key factors that I would like to talk about, the election propelling Social Media into the mainstream:

  • The partisanship/overtly political statements that people are so willing to put out there without regard to online reputation management issues
  • The effect of partisan/overtly political comments on the relationships that people have worked hard to form online and finally
  • The transformation of twitter from a simple conversation tool to a full blown memetracker

Social Media Penetrates Mainstream Media

First I will address the rising popularity of the conversations of social media being integrated into main stream media.

The CNN team has several of the anchors who will routinely look to MySpace, Facebook and Twitter for comments, questions, segment ideas or even feedback.

Current TV was having such success with the mashup of debate coverage with the twitter stream, they formed an official partnership with twitter to promote their hack the debate. Current has been on the cutting edge of providing user generated content with a news twist; but I think this new type of news/twitter mashup has brought even more people into the twitter conversation, simply because the conversation was being put out there to millions of people who wouldn't otherwise be exposed.

And this can only help empower social media as an idea. As our communities continue to grow and we include more people in the conversation, we gain empowerment by shear numbers and the variety of opinions that then become part of the social media conversation.

Political Conversations in Social Media Increases

And the conversation is growing in numbers and in volume.

The night of the first presidential debate I was excited as I am a huge political junkie, I thought I would tweet and interact with some other political junkies. When I actually tuned in and started tweeting I was overwhelmed by the volume of conversation that was occurring on twitter about the debate.

Even more shocking was the amount of very partisan, sometimes inappropriate comments that some people were making. I started to think about how easy it is to get caught up in the moment and say something purely out of anger. Sure you can apologize to those that you said this to or maybe the friends that you offended. But with the speed that Google is now indexing tweets, those comments are likely to live forever and down the road could be a potential reputation nightmare for you. So remember if your online brand is important to you, becareful when waxing political.

Another thing I have noticed, at least with me personally, is most people although strongly partisan when involved in these conversations on twitter haven't really affected the follow. It does seem most people are able to shift through the political banter and keep people as friends even if their ideology differs.

I think this is another great step for social media, people putting aside their differences as long as the conversation is there. A lot of places this type of ideological difference would be the end of the line for the friendship.

Twitter Enables Tracking of Political Memes

Finally I want to say that the model that twitter has put forth with the twitter Election stream, has extended twitter beyond merely a conversation tool but a tool to actual track memes. You can watch the birth of a meme and follow it till the end.

I know that this is somewhat available search.twitter.com; but not in the detail of the twitter election stream, it watches for trending topics displays them all together and auto updates as new tweets roll in, so you can see the conversation grow in real time.

I see the potential for this, if twitter will empower users or groups to create their own custom memetrackers, to be huge and to really be a game changer for twitter.

This could finally be the monetization strategy that twitter has long needed. A pro membership that allows you to setup custom memetrackers, complete with your own cobranded page, they could even sell this to brands as an online reputation management tool or even an competitive analysis tool. I hope to see twitter go somewhere with this technology and not just let it sit in the closet for 4 years.

Social Media Empowers People

So how has this US Election changed the world? Well that may yet to happen; but I think it has advanced social media by empowering the people to have a voice, given mainstream media a chance to participate in the conversation, and pushed twitter to do something innovative. I look forward to November 4th when all the political talk will be said and done; but I must say that I have enjoyed seeing the passion and the activeness of many of the people in social media.

Martin Bowling has worked in the Internet Marketing & Development space since 1999. The first part of his career was helping small West Virginia based business increase their visibility on the internet. Applying his talents in this area eventually landed him contracts with Toyota, Bayer Crop Science, The Air National Guard, West Virginia Department of Health & Human Services, West Virginia State Treasurer's Office & Marie Calendar Foods.

Martin is the CTO & Co-Founder of a boutique Internet Marketing firm Vec3 based in Charleston, WV. With his primary focus on organic seo, social media & online reputation management. Martin believes that utilizing a multi discpline strategy is the only way to go in today's every changing world, he never locks his clients into a one track strategy. You can read his blog at MartinBowling.com and follow all his happens on twitter twitter.com/MartinBowling

Images courtesy of carrotcreative and EricaJoy