When Barack Obama was elected President, many in Web 2.0 circles saw it as the beginning of a new era in Social Media. After all, President Obama was able to get tremendous support via $5 and $10 donations from more than a million Americans through the use of Social Media and constant communication. According to TwitterCounter.com, Barack Obama now is #6 in terms of Twitter “followers” with more than 1.5 million people. President Obama is also the #28 connected person on LinkedIn with 24,000 connections according to TopLinked.com. How this influenced his campaign has yet to be documented, but President Obama utilized and continues to exploit Social Media to broadcast a message in a new format to more than a million people which was just not possible a few years ago. Social Media itself is just a medium, but it is definitely being used more and more for political purposes. Let’s look at some other examples:
- Are you on Twitter? Have you noticed all of the people who have colored their profile pictures in green? They are supporting the demonstraters in Iran by publicly coloring themselves green, the national color of Iran. At first I thought it was just a few people doing this, but every time I look at the time line of tweets there are a few people doing this. If 10% of all Twitter members are doing this, that’s potentially two million people showing their support for the demonstrators in Iran. Who would have thought that an action so simple could create a show of support for those in Iran? It is a new use of Social Media that just wasn’t possible until recently. I won’t even mention the affect that the YouTube video “Her Name was Neda” has had to bring worldwide attention to this cause.
- In Los Angeles yesterday, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who many picked to be the leading Democratic candidate for Governor of California, said he would not run for Governor. His opponent, the current Mayor of San Francisco, Gavin Newsom, currently has more than 570,000 followers on Twitter and has been actively broadcasting about his campaign. Antonio has less than 3,000 followers. Did Gavin’s early utilizing of social media help him gain momentum?
- There is a new political movement in California that was created solely from a Facebook Group. The movement, called “Close the Loophole!”, now has close to 2,000 members despite the fact that it was only created several weeks ago. The group is trying to get grassroots support to amend the Property Tax laws in California, but it is easy to see how utilizing Social Media and its “viral” nature to help “spread the word” goes hand-in-hand with political movements.
- LinkedIn has also seen more political activities through its Groups. Although not necessarily associated with one particular group, many LinkedIn Group Managers banded together to sign a petition to protest the sudden and unannounced changes in LinkedIn Group management. Although the total number of people signing the petition, which when I just checked was 431, may seem insignificant, there is significance that these 431 people are only bound together through Social Media.
- More recently I blogged about the We are Orange County! LinkedIn Group and their quest to have Orange County literally put on the LinkedIn map. This group has now grown to almost 2,000 members just located in Orange County in a mere month, and has already been picked up in the media by Orange County’s leading business journal, Orange County Business Journal, leading newspaper, O.C. Register, as well as several bloggers including my post here. As the movement continues to pick up steam and gain more media coverage in the next few weeks, it will put more pressure on LinkedIn to generate some sort of response.
If you think about it, with all of these people trying to monetize Social Media because of the potential eyeballs that you can attract, it is only a matter of time before political movements pick up on this trend. And, as seen from some of the above examples, perhaps those who “get it” early on will be the more successful at it. Furthermore, it is also clear that in the case of LinkedIn and Facebook, Groups are the preferred method for easily and virally carrying the message to lots of people in little time. Only time will tell, but I do forsee that this trend will continue as social media becomes mainstream and an essential part of our lives.