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

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13 Responses to “How The US Election Is Changing Social Media, Online Rep Management & The World”

  1. Kenny Hyder says:

    Good post. I agree, but I think that we will start to see a rise in 3rd party apps that plug into sites like twitter.com, that will allow users who are using these services at a high level, to have the functionality that you mention as a reputation management solution.

  2. paisley says:

    i agree.. have dropped a few F bombs on overly zealous and ridiculous Dems..

  3. Alysson says:

    I can't help but think that I am one of many that provided you with the inspiration for this post, Martin. :) I have been pretty active on Twitter throughout this election season and particularly throughout the debates themselves. I found the interaction, even with those who disagree, both fascinating and refreshing.

    I suppose it has cost me a few followers, and that's okay with me. I've said nothing I don't stand behind 100%, nor have said anything via Twitter that I wouldn't have said in a face-to-face conversation…and believe me, I have. :)

    I think that's an important point to remember in utilizing Social Media outlets – always be who you are, never apologize for that and don't say anything online that you might later regret. Everyone has a right to their opinion, but you have to understand that not everyone will share your opinion…and some may not even respect it.

    If you are using Twitter to converse with and exchange ideas with like-minded people, rather than trying to build a business and manage your online reputation, there's no harm in showing the world who you are and what you believe in. If you ARE using it for business, on the other hand, it might be a very different story altogether.

  4. Michael D says:

    Nice guest post by Martin Bowling. This is so true for me in my business. I do my best to follow those 3 rules… Don't talk about Religion, Politics, or Sports in the office. Go Toronto Maple Leafs! :)

  5. Utah SEO says:

    Candidates would be crazy not to constantly monitor Twitter.

  6. I too agree. Frankly however, I believe that there is information overload. AND, most information is opinion.

  7. Metaspring says:

    I can relate to the fact that being very politically opinionated and partisan may make a person appear in a certain negative light, so that it is best to keep very radical opinions private or known only to few like minded people.

  8. avfan says:

    I've been watching facebook closely myself and how people have used it during this election season. It's great for grassroots efforts sponsoring things that have somehow missed the attention of the media or the campaigns. It's great for giving a voice to people who might otherwise go ignored. But, yeah, interesting to see how tensions are placed on "friends" when people make their ideologies evident. I have yet to personally lose any of friends from proclaiming my interests, but then again, I'm careful to avoid saying hateful things and I also try to address sensitive issues in a way that's as least offensive as possible. Facebook seems to enable discussion with friends on these sorts of things in a way that's more comfortable than a face to face conversation.

  9. I personally amazed at twitter's resilience. There was a period there towards the end of last year as well as period earlier this year, when staff were exiting, and the service was off line lots, However they somehow got through.

    Now just need to work out how to monitise and they will make a killing, as their brand has now arguably as big as Google's.

  10. Bohol News says:

    They are saying that Barack Obama will be the US President that would put the Internet a big part of his functions in the White House. Maybe we can see him live in video streaming one day.

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