The long and divisive Presidential campaign has finally ended, and the election is over. Thousands of State and local elections (hopefully less vitriolic) are finished, too. Regardless of party affiliations, we hope everyone exercised the right and privilege of casting your vote in the elections. World events during the last year should bring home to every American the true privileges of democratic government. We have witnessed an unprecedented use of social media in the recent campaigns and in the election.
Throughout the campaigns, candidates leveraged social media to provide immediate comments on events and on statements made by their opponents. When they believed they were misrepresented by an opponent or a PAC, candidates shared immediate corrections or comments. Observing the sharing and re-tweeting of candidate statements offered powerful insight into the issues deemed most important by social followers. In the storm-ravaged Northeast, where thousands were still without power, social media also became the way to vote (although not very successfully).
Here are some of our thoughts about the social media campaign/election:
1. The immediacy of social media comments can be a positive factor in political campaigns. Candidates can offer an immediate rebuttal or clarification to their followers when an opponent makes a misleading or erroneous claim. This is a lesson every business owner should learn, as well. Immediate response to a negative or damaging statement offers the best opportunity to limit the damage.
2. Like it or not, we live in a society that is increasingly communicating via social media. If we try to ignore social media, we appear disinterested in our constituents and our customers. We also appear out of touch with society.
3. The brevity of communication in social media can be refreshing. After months of long speeches, there was something refreshing about President Obama’s immediate tweet when the election was called to acknowledge the result and to say thank-you to his supporters.
4. Essex County, NJ had the right idea when they allowed residents to vote via social media. In a county ravaged by hurricane Sandy (and largely still without power), local officials needed to find ways to allow people to vote. Unfortunately, their systems were adequate for the volume of incoming messaging. The lesson, of course, is to ensure you have the systems and processes required before you launch a program or campaign. The remaining issue in this decision is privacy. Typically, social media do not guarantee a level of privacy and security we would desire for voting. Yet, Essex County officials should be commended for their efforts to facilitate voting under very difficult circumstances.
5. If you want to speak to the younger generations of voters (consumers), you must develop a social media presence and listen to their needs and thoughts.
In balance, the social media campaign was positive for most people. We can certainly expect social media to be utilized in future political campaigns. Business owners can contemplate and draw their own conclusions, and learn from the extended campaigns and the efforts to facilitate voting for communities recovering from hurricane Sandy.
Overall, we applaud the democratic process and the right of every American to cast their ballot under any circumstances. Now, we encourage everyone (candidates and constituents) to move beyond partisan differences and come together in the interest of all.