I know you are thinking another MySpace bashing post, but that's not entirely true....
I don't dislike MySpace, but I do think people need to put it in perspective and use it wisely for advertising. Take this article posted on the San Francisco Cronicle called, Candidates invade MySpace. Gubernatorial hopefuls seek younger voters on teen chat site.
The article goes into detail how Democratic California Gubernatorial hopeful Phil Angelides has a MySpace page in addition to your typical Web site, blog, etc. It seems Mr. Angelides has 1200 friends over at MySpace, undoubtly all there to help him win the election, right?
As Theo Yedinsky, director of the New Politics Institute, a part of the New Democratic Network said in the article: ""I think it is unbelievably important. And my question for the future would be: If you are a presidential candidate (in 2008), do you have MySpace organizers? And if you don't, why not? Because this is way too big to ignore."
Need a few reasons?
I can come up with a few reasons that MySpace is not the holy grail for political advertising. Sure the Web is the place for candidates to push a message, socialize with voters, and raise donations; however, is MySpace the place for that?
I think the vote is still not in. You see you need voters and the first key to being a voter is...bingo!... age. You have to be, ummm....last time I checked... 18 to vote. This article clearly forgets to outline how many people in MySpace are over 18.
Plus, a rule of thumb is that younger people are less likely to register and vote (sorry, I'm down in DC today for meetings and I can't find my demographic report or else I'd back that up with numbers). Finally, most elections are state-specific, so he needs all of the friends he can get in California only. Having friends elsewhere (unless they donate) is pretty much useless.
Now why do people go to MySpace? The answer is to have their personalized page (more on that in a sec) and to socialize. Is Mr. Angelides writing posts and having a conversation or is it a static page? I couldn't tell for sure from his MySpace page and the article didn't specify.
MySpace is about socializing and is more than just a one-way communication vehicle. Also, does he have email addresses from any of these new friends and have they donated any money? Political friends provide grass-root support, emails, donations, and hopefully votes and again the article fails to point out any of those important points. I guess all you need to win an election in 2006 is to have a MySpace page with a lot of friends, right?
Enough about MySpace for a second. I think candidates can pretty much ignore it for now without damaging a campaign, but they should not ignore the social networking or social aspect of the internet. Candidates should have an ongoing communication with perspective voters and supporters and they can do it in a more effective manner.
First of all, using the internet for messaging and communicating with potential voters would be powerful and is virtually untapped today.
Second, two-way communications via a blog or their own site could be helpful if done correctly; for example, one has to wonder about a few of Mr Angelides' friends especially the one with the button that say Bush Sucks Dick Cheney Too. I think allowing people with their own sites and blogs to link to a candidate's site (and vice versa) could be very powerful, provided they supply a few critical pieces of information like zip code, email, name, etc. Allowing them an open forum with certain members of the staff again after they provided information could be useful too.
Finally, if candidates really want to get into social networking, I'd venture into LinkedIn or Meetup, but that's just me, of course.
As Yedinsky says at the end of the article: "I don't think we've seen the first big MySpace story in politics." You are right, and I'm betting you won't see many coming soon. MySpace is filled with teenagers who can't or typically don't vote in elections and even when they do come of voting age may not think MySpace is cool anymore.
Don't agree? Ask people you know who are in college how often they use MySpace. I've asked every college student I've run into and they all say the same thing: "MySpace is for high school kids." And the last time I checked, they don't donate and frequently don't vote.
If social networking is where it is at for political advertising, I'd be looking in other spaces.
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