Learning Social Media Lessons from Brown v. Coakley

03/22/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Lauren DeLisa Digi-cultural trend analyst, author, speaker, consultant and producer

A few analysts are wisely looking at the impact of social media on the recent Senate election in Massachusetts between Republican Scott Brown and Democrat Martha Coakley. And by now certainly everyone and anyone who is interested has compared the Republican candidate's digital numbers over the Democratic candidate's numbers. Without a doubt, it seems the Democrats certainly missed many opportunities for harnessing the power of the on-line communication medium. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube were, seemingly, used more effectively by state Senator Brown to promote his campaign and connect with supporters. In fact, a study conducted by the Emerging Media Research Council concluded just hours ago that Brown's use of social media also included boosting his name recognition from 51% in November to 95% in January.

But the important question now is, what can both parties learn from these results to leverage capabilities going forward?

First, it's not just about having more Facebook followers than one's opponent; but deciding what number actually means success for the campaign at the outset and define a major strategy about how to reach that number. While 9.679 Twitter followers for Brown is a number, is it really a success given the number of people on Twitter based in Massachusetts?
In addition, well beyond that consideration would be crafting a firm methodology that will elicit compelling and consistent interaction and response from followers once they are obtained.

Second, it also critical, as Harvard fellow and Microsoft Research Danah Boyd noted at last year's Personal Democracy Forum in New York, to understand that certain constituents will just simply not be reached if one relies solely on what are considered to be the top couple of social media platforms. As the browning of our country becomes more and more apparent with each year, political parties must devise strategy and research on where certain constituents are on the digital landscape and target then them in the appropriate and organic manner because there are definite differences in social areas of choice; and it would be rare indeed that one "social media expert" alone mastered all of them and the behavior patterns behind all of them. For example, most people have not the fainted idea that Black women under 30 are accessing social media more than any other demographic in our country via mobile phones, as per Pew Research Center. If one were trying to reach her another way, he would have missed her. Such drilling down of statistics will become more and more vital to winning political numbers.

Finally, it is time to stop thinking of media in compartments rather than the wonderfully chaotic choreograph that it is. Everyone is talking solely about social media as it pertains to this campaign, but there is a wide world of new media which includes overall on-line usage and mobile marketing. SMS codes will need to be seamlessly integrated into Tweets and television spots. Mobile applications for both BlackBerry and iPhone need to be launched as mobile networks-of-sorts for candidates. Twitter handles need to be included in printed campaign materials and embedded into on-line videos and so on. Media is to be meshed by the strategist just as it is meshed by the consumer today. No one is simply utilizing one platform at a time any longer.

Make digital outreach entertaining, organic, hip, relevant and diverse; and you just may have yourself an overall winning campaign.