Bridging the Gap: Social Media in the Presidential Election

This post is part of our PRSSA 2012 National Conference series, where members of our Executive Board will be sharing tips from various breakout sessions.

As a political communication junkie, I couldn’t have been more excited. The presenter’s credentials alone are impressive. I heard first from David Almacy, a Senior Vice President in Edelman’s Digital Public Affairs Practice in Washington, DC. Almacy served as White House Internet and E-Communications director under President George W. Bush. In that role, he managed online communications strategy and served as a spokesman and primary liaison for Internet press and bloggers.

He had some key takeaways. I found his perspective particularly interesting because many of the platforms today didn’t exist under his tenure in the Bush Administration – Instagram and Pinterest just to name a few.

Mr. Almacy began by detailing social media platforms unbelievable growth since his former boss left office. He pointed out that Foursquare, the location-based social media service, saw 3400% growth in 2010 alone and was the fastest platform to reach one million users. If that one statistic doesn’t symbolize the power of social media, I don’t know what does.

More important, Almacy said, is that we’re now living in a world of transmedia storytelling. Yes, mainstream media like The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal and ABC Nightly News are still important. However, those outlets now intersect with hybrid media, in his words, such as POLITICO, TechCrunch and BuzzFeed – and there are even more intersections with owned content channels like candidate websites and then with all kinds of social platforms like Facebook, Twitter, etc.

At the center of these different media intersections are search and content. And that is what campaigns are thinking about and any communicator today should be thinking about when trying to communicate a message – whether it be for a political campaign or a corporate client. The strategy is the same.

If the 2012 election is seeing all of these dramatic changes, what will 2016 hold?

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