Archives for Politics

Social Media: the Spark of Revolution?

Egypt written on a building wall next to an Egytian flag

Is social media the new vehicle for revolution?

Social media is no longer limited to status updates and posting photos from a friend’s birthday party. Social media has quickly become one of the most influential factors in grassroots socio-political mobilization across the globe. The January 25 revolution in Egypt gained a major foothold with the application of social media tools like Facebook and Twitter. Since the existence of media, individuals have used it to demand more governmental transparency and mobilize allies.

On February 9th former President Bill Clinton spoke at New York University. The former president was lecturing on the Dayton Peace Agreement. This agreement ended the1995 Bosnia Herzegovina genocide. During the lecture President Clinton compared constant news media coverage in the case of the Bosnia-Herzegovina Genocide with the role of social media in assisting communications during the revolution in Egypt. While the former president said the constant news coverage during the Bosnia-Herzegovina Genocide was different than the role social media played during the Revolution in Egypt, both captured global attention at different points in time, springing out of the human desire for information. Clinton reflected back on the quality of technology available when he was president 16 years ago, “There were just 50 Internet sites and the average cell phone weighed 5 pounds”. Clinton heads up the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) alongside personal counselor Doug Band who provides much needed help to the organization, which was founded in 2002 as the Clinton HIV/AIDS Initiative. Mr. Douglas Band also oversees plenty of foreign operations at the Clinton Global Initiative.

On 25 January 2011 after a successful revolution had taken in Tunisia, inspired by the events, many Egyptians began protesting against the unemployment and poverty that had settled in Egypt as a result of the country’s 30-year autocratic rule by former President Hosini Mubarak. Protesters used social network services like Facebook and Twitter to show the world what was happening in the country, arrange protests and governmental and military responses to the unrest. On the second day of mass protest in Egypt, the Internet, PDA access to the Internet and text messages shut off by Egyptian government. The government’s effort to disable ‘insurgent’ communication in Egypt was unsuccessful. A handful of transnational human rights activists, translators and bloggers used Facebook, Twitter, chatrooms and other social media platforms to relay messages from protestors, journalists and human rights activists to further the grassroots social mobilization while allowing the world to witness step in step exactly what was going on inside of Egypt. Social media makes social organization easier and effective. Social media used by Egyptian protestors brought together individuals who shared common goals and ideas, but also offered a medium for planning. In the case of Egypt, social media forced the government to take accountability. Transnational social networks made it very difficult for governments to lie and hide from their citizens. As January’s events have shown the world, social media interconnects individuals creating a transnational network armed with information.

While the Bosnia Herzegovina genocide and the recent revolution in Egypt are to completely separate events under girded by different politics and history, a human’s desire for information has always been insatiable. At many points in history individuals have combined ingenuity, passion and technology to link themselves with people and societies across the globe.

Thomas MorrisonThomas Morrison is a co-editor of Everything Left, a blog about politics and current events. He writes on topics that are contemporary and progressive.

Read his blog at Everything Left

Follow him on Twitter @twmorrison75

Today’s social campaign: tomorrow’s social office?

David MacEwen with his arms up

Social media is about staying connected. It is not about showing that you care, it is about actually caring.

Yesterday Doña County Commissioner Scott Krahling spoke about why he uses social media. I was really glad he decided to write this guest post.  I have spoken with a number of politicians about their social media campaigns.  There are many who recognize the value and power of social media during campaign season; there are many more who need to embrace the socio-political mobilization happening on social networks.  However, there seems to be a lack in politicians using social media for constituency management.

Social media is a powerful tool for reaching people in a variety of ways and on a variety of platforms.  Of course it is not meant to be used to the exclusion of other forms of communication. But with the prevalence of internet-ready devices, e.g. computers, laptops, tablets (iPad), smartphones and hand held devices, internet accessibility is becoming less of a problem.

There will always be people who shun the idea of social media, and that is why you communicate with them through different channels.  But the continued growth of social media is proving that it isn’t just a fad. Social media is here to stay, and quickly becoming the dominant channel for news and communication.

Since President Obama wowed the world with his innovative social media campaign, politicians have been coming around to the idea that the social networks are a great way to communicate with voters, recruit volunteers, fundraise and increase presence in the public eye.

Brian Colón, candidate for New Mexico Lt. Governor, had one of the strongest social media presences of any  candidate in the state. He used his social networks in a way that not only benefited his campaign, but kept him connected to the community.  Our new Governor, Susana Martinez, also had an incredibly strong social media campaign.  As she enters into her second month in office, she seems to be taking the social campaign to the next level – the social office.

So many miss the mark when it comes to truly accessing the power of social media. They go through the motions but have no commitment to the social campaign. Social media is the new grass roots, and Egypt is the most recent example.

The next election will bring a new round of strong and more deeply committed social media campaigns.  The necessity is overwhelmingly obvious.  The next level of evolution needs to be the integration of social media into the political office; it is time to take it beyond the campaign.  Using social media for constituency communication management is an excellent way to keep your fingers on the pulse of your community. It gives them a voice and a direct line to you.  It will make your time in office stronger, and make running for re-election easier. Social media is not about showing you care for the moment, it is caring for the long run.  Politicians like Scott Krahling are doing this by continually growing their social presence and availability.

Egypt & Social Media: These times they are a-changing

A tweet about social media in EgyptHave any of your Facebook friends posted this?

“I stand by the people of Egypt. For years Mubarak has been a ruthless leader who has violated human rights time and time again. Now it is time that the United States Government stands by the people of Egypt. We say we promote democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan now we should support all of the people that are fighting for their freedom and democracy in the middle east.”

The people of Egypt have started an uprising, and statements similar to the one above have been posted on virtual walls, as tweets and re-tweets across the U.S.A. and the world since the uprising began, likely by thousands of people with no ties to Egypt at all.

Banding together to fight for a common cause is not new to the human race, but the omnipresence of social media has created a way for causes to reach more people, much faster, and deliver more information than ever before.

We all saw how social networking rallied, “petitioned” and secured comedian Betty White as host of Saturday Night Live, but can our American culture of Social Networking be used to sway public opinion and actually involve the United States government in aiding the Egyptian uprising?

Heath Haussamen, the editor of, recently pointed his 2,041 Facebook friends to this link with this persuasive rhetoric: “– Crazy things happening in #Egypt”.

I am not implying that Mr. Haussamen will alone sway public opinion in American politics and single-handedly change the paradigm of United States/Egypt relations, but his message will be potentially seen by thousands of readers.  And let’s not forget, he linked the message from Facebook, which has over 500 MILLION members worldwide, and over 115 million in the U.S. alone. This means this call for support, urging the U. S. government (many of whom are Facebook friends too!) to take action, would have been read by more people than are physically taking part in the uprising, before noon.

One might reason that just because all these people read a post or watch a video, it won’t make them band together for change.  However, let’s consider recent history.

When a massive earthquake hit a province in China, thousands of residents Tweeted, posted and texted their accounts of the horror to the world even before the Chinese government was informed.  Within hours, donation sites were set up across the globe by the public, circumventing any involvement from the Chinese government.

Facebook surveys have allowed people living in the war-torn Kashmir province to let the world know what country they believe their land is part of, despite the purely symbolic nature of the survey.  Iranians took to the Tweet after the recent election scandal, prompting international attention to the country.

Social networking has also been given much of the credit for overwhelming voter turnout and campaign success during the 2008 elections (especially from younger voters, a demographic not prone to exercising their civic duties) .

Writer Lee Brenner wrote in an article for White House Correspondents Insider, “The Obama campaign was extremely successful in their online organizing strategy and they will tell you they owe their win to the grassroots network, on-line video, MySpace, Facebook, YouTube, SMS, and a strong email campaign.

With millions watching events in Egypt unfold on TV and the Internet, and having access to unprecedented amounts of visceral, emotional accounts of the escalating conflict found only on sites like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, I will ask the question once more: can our culture of social networking sway public opinion, exerting such influence that the United States government must respond as agents of their people?

Guest Blogger


Today’s guest blogger is Nick Barnard. He raises some compelling and interesting arguments regarding social media and social change.

Did Facebook Predict New Mexico’s Election?

*This is a reprint of the guest post by Lauren MacEwen on

Vote 2010 NM

As New Mexico continues to increase its use of social media, we are going to see a corresponding expansion in the influence it has on local politics.  The national trend is reflecting a substantial rise in the use and influence of social media in the political realm, and New Mexico is following this trend line with vigor.  Though our state has the lowest percentage of Facebook users in the country, we are the second fastest growing user base, with a  701% growth rate in the past 24 months. Currently, 23% of the New Mexico population is on Facebook.1

The conversations on Facebook on November 2nd were dominated by the election. By mid-afternoon, the midterm elections nationwide were already breaking internet records.  At 5 pm EST, internet users were 5.6 million per minute, a 1.4 million user/minute increase from the 2008 Obama victory which was the 4th highest traffic day since the 2005 inception of the Net Usage Index for News.

Not only were candidates posting last effort calls for voting, people were posting their “I Voted” badges on Facebook and telling friends to go out and vote. As the results rolled in, friends posted good luck wishes, congratulations and condolences on their candidates’ pages.

So how did New Mexico fare in the 2010 social media election?

Social media did play a role in New Mexico’s recent midterm election, although we were about 20 points behind the national trend.  Where Facebook might not have been a definitive predictor in the NM election, it was a certainly an influencer.

The majority of Statewide elections had active social media campaigns, often with both Facebook profiles and Fan Pages campaigning in tandem.

National Political Social Media Trend:

74% of House candidates with the most Facebook fans won their race
80% of Senate candidates with the most Facebook fans won their race
78% of incumbents that lost their seat had fewer fans than their challengers

New Mexico Political Social Media Trend2

60% of all the races used Facebook through Campaign Fan Pages or through Profiles.
57% of the winners used Facebook
57% of incumbents that were overturned used FaceBook3

This is a list showing candidates, their races, what percent of the vote they had and whether they were on Facebook.  “Y” indicates they had either a Profile or a Fan Page on Facebook. The candidates in bold won their races.4

list showing social media presence of candidates in the New Mexico midterm 2010 elections

Click to view the complete list of Candidates

Comparison of Social Media Presence and the Effect on Statewide Campaigns5

Generally when a candidate was the incumbent and had a stronger Facebook presence than their challenger, they won their race. The one race (from the sample below) where the incumbent was overthrown, the challenger had a much stronger Facebook presence than the incumbent. The only race (from the sample below) where a strong social media presence did not result in a win was for the Office of the Secretary of State.

This is a list of candidates showing how many followers and friends they had on their Fan Page and Profile. Candidates in red were the incumbents. Candidates in bold won their races. More candidates had Pages than Profiles, though candidates with Profiles (or both Profiles and Pages) had a wider reach than candidates with just Fan Pages. 6 & 7

New Mexico 2010 midterm election candidate list with friend and followers numbers from Facebook listed for each candidate

List of Candidates Network Influence on Facebook Fan Pages and Profiles

US Representative District 1- Both Martin Heinrich and Jon Barela had Facebook Fan Pages and Profiles.  Barela’s Fan Page had a farther reach by 313 fans, Heinrich’s Profile had a larger reach by 1,714 friends. Heinrich was the incumbent.

US Representative District 2– Steve Pearce had a much stronger Fan Page than Teague, by 2,934 fans. Pearce overthrew the incumbent.

US Representative District 3– Ben Ray Lujan had a much stronger Fan Page than Mullins, by 1,218 fans.  Lujan was the incumbent.

Governor– Susana Martinez and Diane Denish both had Fan Pages and Profiles.  Martinez had a strong Fan Page by 6,639 fans. Denish had a stronger Profile by 1,360 friends.  In this case, Martinez’ reach with her Fan Page far over-shadowed Denish’s reach with her Profile.6

Secretary of State– Dianna Duran had both a Fan Page and a Profile whereas incumbent Mary Herrera only had a Profile.  Herrera’s profile was much stronger by 2,427 friends, but Duran prevailed.

State Auditor– Incumbent Hector Balderas had a very strong presence.  His Fan Page was stronger than Chavez by 1,540 fans and his profile was stronger by 4,659 friends.

Attorney General– Gary King, the incumbent, had no Facebook presence, and won his race even though his challenger had a strong Profile and Fan Page.

In the Statewide races Facebook seemed to be both an influencer and a predictor.  With the exception of one, the candidates with the strong Facebook presence won their race. Is Facebook becoming the social media equivalent of the exit poll?

1 NM user percentage is Based on US Census and Facebook demographics. I focused the social media analysis on Facebook because very few NM campaigns used Twitter. Also because Facebook allows for more detailed trending due to availability of detailed user demographics.
2The candidates analyzed and shown are only races that had challengers.  Races without challengers were not figured into calculations and their social media presence was not accounted for or analyzed.
3This statistic is based on races where at least one candidate used Facebook.  There was only one race in which an incumbent was overturned where neither party used Facebook.
4Facebook information was gathered by Lauren MacEwen.  Facebook Fan Pages and Profiles were not verified by the candidates, but were determined through content, network associations and candidate web page links.  Pages and Profiles were sourced from candidate websites when possible.  Due to profile settings of candidates, Lauren MacEwen was not able to determine if all candidate profiles were used for campaign purposes. Due to profile settings, not all candidate profiles may have been found and may therefore not be listed.  Profiles and Fan Pages of candidates were searched for on Google and Facebook as well as cross-referenced with specific network connections to compile as much complete and accurate data as possible.
5In the case of Commissioner of Public Lands where one candidate had a page and the other had a profile, I could not fairly analyze the comparative influence of their social media engagement due to the substantial differences in network growth, ie. active personal networking, ads, organic growth and suggestions.
6I did not include the Facebook presences of the Lt. Governor candidates in this analysis.  As they were joint tickets I decided to focus on the lead candidates. Additionally I would not have ben able to compare Colón and Sanchez as as Colón had a significant Facebook presence whereas John Sanchez did not.
7Profile and Fan Page data was collected on November 3, 2010.

Lauren (Armstrong) MacEwen is the primary social media consultant and strategist for SM Cubed Consulting.  Follow her on Twitter. Find her on Facebook. Read her blog.

Social Media: The Fundraising Powerhouse

Raising Money

Social media has changed the face of campaigning.  We are seeing more of our political candidates making their voices heard on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Besides being a great way to get your voice heard, build relationships with your constituents, communicate with people and promote your campaign, social media is also the newest platform for campaign fundraising.

On the campaign trail you meet a lot of people, but you can’t meet or talk to everyone. This is where social media seems like an obvious benefit. Think of how many conversations you can initiate and how many people you can ask for contributions – it would take months to knock on that many doors. But with Facebook and Twitter you can reach thousands in seconds. The problem is, it is not as simple as just asking for money. When people meet and talk to you, they are more compelled to donate to your campaign. You have spoken with them, and they have made a commitment to you. When you write a post asking for money, it is easy for your friends to ignore it or pretend they never saw it. If it is cleverly worded, you might even get a few “Likes”, but that does not mean that a donation is following the public show of support. So the big question is, how can you harness social media for fundraising?

Talking to New Mexico Democratic candidate for Lt. Governor, Brian Colón

Brian Colón, Democratic candidate for Lt. Governor, found the answer to that question. As with all social media, it is all about the relationships. It is not enough to simply ask for money. If you were collecting donations at an event, you’d be offering food and drink, conversation and networking. In short, you are building and sustaining relationships. Online, it is simply not enough to post updates about your campaign and have a website. You have to interact with your friends and followers. You have to create buzz and excitement.

Brian Colón managed to do that with his big fundraising push in April and May. After receiving $138,000 in online donations, he raised more money than almost any other Lt. Governor candidate in the country. He was also publicly recognized for a 48 hour period as the top online fundraiser in the country on ActBlue, the online clearinghouse for Democratic action.

I recently spoke to Brian about these successes. He said he wanted his campaign to be the “gold standard” in New Mexico for political social media. With more than 3,200 friends and a highly interactive social media presence, he accomplished this. Brian said, “My campaign was built on social media. I won the primary by 5,000 votes. Facebook and my online activity got me those votes. I would have been at risk of losing the election without social media.”

Brian didn’t just use social media to bring awareness to his campaign, he was able to harness his influence into tangible fundraising results. On Facebook and Twitter he was open with his fundraising goals, and posted updates about how much was still needed to reach those goals. During big push times he would even post about who donated, giving them public thanks and appreciation. In many ways this is the social media equivalent of the ticker running on the bottom of the screen during the Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon. We all call in because we want to see our name at the bottom of the screen. Brian Colón managed to capture that atmosphere and enthusiasm.

Taking inspiration from the telethon, Brian said, “My father was one of Jerry’s Kids. I have been raising money my whole life, whether it was walking around with a fish bowl raising money for MDA or walking the campaign trail. I have always recognized the value of seeing my name on TV. People like recognition. The telethon was an inspiration.” Brian successfully translated that inspiration into social media with his updates about who donated and how much. He was able to convert the excitement into real contributions.

I asked Brian what advantages he found in social media fundraising vs. more traditional methods. He said, “People are motivated to do it online because it’s instant. When someone says they are going to drop a check in the mail you have a 50% chance of it happening. It’s not that people don’t want to donate, it’s that writing a check is inconvenient.”

The “instant” quality of social media fundraising combined with the telethon style promotion of fundraising efforts creates a momentum that direct mail and phone calls simply cannot generate.

Fundraising on Social Media: Plusses and Pitfalls

Many candidates learn the hard way that adding a donation button to a website causes almost nothing to happen. Donations are a by-product of the decision to support a candidate. They are not isolated actions, but an integral part of the campaigning process. They are a financial show of support that is tied to the relationship between the candidate and the contributor. Social media is becoming one of the best tools to build and maintain voter/candidate relationships.

On the verge of becoming the best way to leverage a candidates’ time, social media is a public conversation.

Some people are still reticent about donating online. They are wary of sharing credit card information. They don’t trust that their information won’t be used to spam their email box. They are embarrassed about the size of their donation. They don’t want to sign up for an account on another website. However, sites like Paypal , ActBlue and Fundrazr protect your transaction and your information. You can help quell your online community’s concerns by addressing them in your social media fundraising efforts. Post about the safety of online contributions;  address their issues publicly and give them the option of sending in a check.

Candidates who use social media are moving from simple tools that handle small pieces to a much more sophisticated system that treats every interaction with a voter as an important piece of their political relationship. Political relationship management is the next evolution of campaign management and social media is the keystone of that strategy.

Maryland regulating social media in campaigns

*This blog was originally featured on

As social media become more integrated into political campaigns, the question of rules and regulations of social networks for campaign usage comes to the forefront. Maryland is the first state to be proactive in addressing this question.

On June 3 the Maryland State Board of Elections voted in favor of adopting the rules that would regulate a candidates Facebook and Twitter accounts. These rules will require that candidates add disclosure statements to their social networks (blogs, Facebook, Twitter and online advertising greater than 200 characters ). The disclosure will be the same that is required on printed material, “Paid for by ….., Treasurer….” In the case of Twitter where there is not enough room for a full disclosure, the Twitter account will have to be registered with the state board which will post a list of official campaign Twitter accounts. Non-compliance would result in a misdemeanor conviction and punishable with a fine or imprisonment.

Currently Maryland is the only state to adopt social networking regulations. Though other states, such as California, Wisconsin and Florida, are already following in Maryland’s lead and are working towards establishing their own regulations.

The goal of the regulations are to let voters know what are official candidate communications. If the candidates social networking sites are registered, then it will allow a voter to know what is legitimate and what is not. “I think it brings clarity to the process,” said Jared DeMarinis , director of the Maryland State Board of Elections. “The public can get an idea of what is an official communication without worrying about the source of the posting. They can make informed decisions at the ballot box.” This will also increase the exposure for a candidates social media profiles. Voter will be able to go to an official list to easily find the links to their candidates Twitter and Facebook pages. As far as social media networking is concerned, this will only increase traffic and credibility, two things that all social media profiles strive to establish.

Establishing validity and credibility is a goal for all public social media profiles. Though Facebook has rules about impersonating people, and will disable an account if they discover fraud, it does not mean that impostors do not sneak through the cracks. The problem is that Fan Pages are outside Facebook’s reach and can be created by anyone. Though it is frowned upon, social network impersonation has become a strategy for the spread of misinformation. The regulations and disclaimer would prevent impostor pages from achieving authority.

There are those who argue that registering the sites, and placing a disclaimer, infringes on first amendment right. However, the regulations are not being put in place to regulate what is being said, just its authenticity. Social networking has become the next power tool in the campaign toolbox. It is a constant and active connection to voters, that is cheaper, greener and has a wider reach than all previous GOTV activities. Social media also creates a level of transparency that has been previously unattainable.

This rule sheds light on the governments acknowledgement of the importance of social media and political campaigning. Social networking has become integral to political campaigns. The authenticating of a campaigns social network will only contribute to the growing strength of social media as a source for reliable political information. After Maryland voted on the rule, Facebook Washington DC said, “Facebook is pleased that the Maryland Board of Elections is now leading the way for the rest of the country in making it clear to campaigns how they can legally use social media to reach voters.”

With New Mexico’s politicians embracing social media for campaigns, and an increase demand in transparency in politics, will we be the next on board for regulating social networking?


Lauren Armstrong is senior consultant at SM Cubed, a social media consulting firm. @laurencubed

Social Media is the New Political Platform

-written by Lauren Armstrong

*This is a repost from the original on

President Obama is called the Social Media President.  During the 2008 elections Obama embraced technology that extended beyond email and websites to fully harness the power of social media to reach and energize people.  With the New Mexico Primary’s behind us, we are starting to see many of the candidates also embracing the potential of social media.  Brian Colón, candidate for Lt. Governor, avidly engages with Facebook and Twitter, posting his experiences from the campaign trail to sharing news and driving fundraising.  Hector Balderas, NM State Auditor, uses Facebook as a way to build and maintain relationships with his constituency.  Susana Martinez uses her Facebook Page to share her campaign positions and communicate with her supporters.  The common thread is that all of these candidates use social media as a way for them to communicate directly with their supporters.  When put simply, this does not sound revolutionary.  What makes this so significant is they are reaching out en masse, in a very personal way, to voters.  Traditionally walking, phone calls, emails and events have been the way to directly interact with the public.  This meant that candidates were only able to meet a very small portion of the public.  They had to rely on third party communication, ie. commercials, interviews, mailers and word of mouth support, to spread their message and establish a rapport with voters.  Social media revolutionizes candidate voter relationships.  Now, Brian Colón shares his life with his Facebook friends.  He is able to talk to them, but what is more important is they are able to talk to him.  His Facebook friends can send him an email or post on his wall and know that it is Brian who is responding to them.  They can meet him, and get to know him, and find out for themselves who this candidate really is.

A big question in social media and politics, is what happens when you are not receiving positive attention?  What if you are in the news due to negative press or scandal?  People shy away from the front line of social media when confronted personal/professional controversy.  It feels easier and safer to communicate your position through a news release or a personal sound byte. However, social media is the perfect platform to actively and informally combat negative press and deal with the potential fall out from scandal.  It is the ultimate “your side of the story.” In this day of hyper communication and constant contact, keeping silent can cause more trouble than speaking up.   For instance, the controversy with Tiger Wood was heightened because he kept silent, his lack of engagement became as much a part of the controversy as the infidelity itself.

A local example of controversy and social media was the race for Judge of NM Court of Appeals, Position 2, the race between Dennis W. Montoya and Linda Vanzi. Montoya’s social media strategy was not risk averse when it came to addressing the controversy head on.  On his Facebook profile, he discussed the issues with his friends and did not shy away from the controversy.  In the discussions on his profile, Montoya would clarify his position when asked, and he would answer any questions fro his Facebook friends. His strategy paid off. According to his Facebook friends list, he did not lose any friends. In fact, he gained friends.  His transparency lead to a successful social media campaign.  Though he did not win the Primary, his social media presence won him many voters he may not have had otherwise.

Though not every candidate will face the challenges in the Montoya/Vanzi race, but mudslinging and controversy are often a part of the campaign landscape and social media can be a bolster to combatting and addressing these issues.  The social media platform gives candidates a chance to speak to issues that the press might not cover, or respond to issues in a highly personal manner.  The dialogue that social media fosters allows the candidate to become more than just another talking head. The candidates who are utilizing social media are saying they want to connect with people and they are interested in not only listening to what the voters have to say, but they want to participate in the discussion. Social media is the new political arena.

Lauren Armstrong is the Senior Consultant at SM Cubed (, a Social Media consulting firm.

*Disclosure- Lauren consulted for Hector Balderas and continues to consult for Dennis W. Montoya