Week 5

While most of our authors so far have regarded the Internet as a tool that could revolutionize political participation, this week’s readings started to suggest some limitations. In Dave Karpf’s “Measuring the Success of Digital Campaigns,” for example, he proposes that measurements of success on the Internet can be divided into two categories: tactical measurement, which merely counts the number of page views/Twitter followers/petition signers that your campaign has reached, and strategic measurements, which determine whether or not your online efforts have helped you to realize your overall goal. He goes on to say that campaigns need to measure their efforts strategically as opposed to tactically, as simply looking at the statistics attached to your content often says very little about whether or not you have made any difference.

In the second article of Karpf’s that we read for the week, “Macaca Moments Reconsidered: Electoral Participation or Netroots Mobilization?”, he makes the argument that cable news pundits often overstate the value of embarrassing YouTube videos in a candidate’s campaign. While the videos might get a lot of hits (making them tactically successful), they often reach political news junkies instead of voters in that candidate’s district (making a campaign to remove them from office strategically unsuccessful). He also claims that in these cases, YouTube isn’t necessarily being used in the grassroots manner that is often associated with the website. Videos of embarrassing gaffes are usually caught by professional journalists and spread by political insiders – while your ordinary citizen might view the video, he has very little to do with producing or spreading the content. This would seem to suggest that ordinary citizens aren’t driving Internet revolutions like they’re commonly thought to be; but then again, Pasek’s article “Realizing the Social Internet? Online Networking Meets Offline Social Capital” found that an individual’s online social networks – largely consisting of ordinary folks – can have a significant impact on their political knowledge and civic engagement.

Do you think tactical measurements have any significance in determining a campaign’s strategic success? With all of the YouTube videos you’ve watched, Twitter accounts you’ve followed, or blog posts you’ve read, have you ever been inspired to real action about a candidate or issue? Furthermore, do you place more value on the opinions of political insiders or your Facebook friends when selecting what content to view?

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6 Responses to Week 5

  1. sophialief says:

    I think that this question posed at the end of the blog post is very well-put and one that should be paid attention to, because it sometimes takes our personal experiences and self-reflection on our own experiences that allow us to come to an understanding about larger social and political issues. In answer to the first portion of the discussion question, I do think that tactical measurements have some significance in determining a campaign’s strategic success – it cannot be totally eliminated from the equation. While strategy-based metrics are certainly the utmost important in regards to the cause at hand, a critical part of making sure the goal is achieved is rooted in getting the message across to as large of an audience as possible, which is measured through tactical metrics. Nowadays, sometimes too much of an emphasis is placed on tactical measurements compared to the overall strategic success of a candidate or issue. Although it would be ideal to have a balance between tactics and strategy, it is a challenge to change this existing focus on hard numbers that prevails throughout society. They do hold a significant place in relation to candidates/issues that affect society, yet it is ultimately strategy that allows for overall success and achievement.
    An issue that I got involved with at a young age was the Save Darfur mission, an effort that although did not start through the use of online social networking sites, was spread across the American population through web-videos and televised media coverage. My mom and I would read blogs about this subject matter, and the accompaniment of videos illustrating the chaos inspired me to raise money and take an active role in the cause. Following the coalition on Twitter (@SaveDarfur) reminds me of the genocide that is happening there on a day-to-day basis.
    Finally, I place more value on the opinions of political insiders compared to my Facebook friends. Although I may have more in common with my Facebook friends, it is political insiders that have a deep and complete scope of the political landscape that shapes our country. The content that they chose to be more important than others has been selected out of thousands of other stories, which illustrates their value in comparison to a story that one of my friends may consider funny or interesting. Many people at this age are just not interested in politics whatsoever, and have no interest in taking the time to read any sort of relevant content – rather, their news is cluttered with miscellaneous stories that have no real impact on their daily lives. I place my trust in political insiders to deliver news stories that as a population are worth knowing about, in the hopes of becoming more knowledgable and aware of our political and social landscape.

  2. lily.yan says:

    When you ask if there is “any” significance to tactical measurements in garnering success in the strategic sense, yes, I believe these measurements would be valid contributions towards the goal. However, as we mentioned in lecture, tactical only equates with the small individual steps made to turn the resources one has to what one needs to get what one wants, as outlined by Karpf. Whether these steps will have the potential to carry any monumental significance to achieving real action is at most times suspect. From Karpf’s readings this week, I agree with him on the fact that simply gathering view counts on Youtube, Twitter followers, and other empirical measures on the surface do not suffice as creating a political stimulus if these actions are aimless without organization. I do think tactical measures can have more weight on determining strategic success if these efforts were organized by a politically affiliated community, such as DailyKos within Karpf’s research study. Usually we as individuals click on a Youtube link, follow a new Twitter account or post a blog, even if it is with a political purpose in mind, there is a slim chance that it will ‘inspire’ others to act as well. However, if a more powerful community used these tactical measurements for a tangible goal and highlighted them to the public, it just might spur change.

    As far as the sources I rely on to determine what content to view, I value and place more reliance on the opinions of experts who are professionals in the field they work on. In the realm of politics, this would include political analysts, professors, or academic researchers, who have a great depth of knowledge and credentials compared that of the mass public. I may read my friends’ opinions on Facebook and Twitter, but I wouldn’t place a great deal of value on them unless I know a certain person is very politically engaged and informed on past and current issues. So simply stated, reading or following individual’s posts or accounts would most likely not inspire me to take action unless a credible leader or organization was involved as well.

  3. kcarney91 says:

    I think that tactical measurements, when aggregated can show some evidence of whether a campaign is strategically effective. In my experience, I have not been inspired to action by any social media, however I have been inspired by these outlets to further investigate information concerning major issues or have had issues brought to my attention through my friends’ posts. I also feel though that political insiders and major news sources have more credibility, but I enjoy viewing my friends’ opinions and the articles they view concerning political or social problems of the day.

  4. kbyrd23 says:

    To answer your first question, I think that tactical measurements when used properly and viewed with in context of strategic goals have a significance in determining a campaign’s strategic success. The number of followers, views, and re-posts are all indicators that people are becoming actively engaged in your campaign message. As discussed in class though, these tactical measurements don’t always indicate strategic success. So, in order to see if they are succeeding these tactical measures should be aggregated and compared to the desired results of the campaign. If the political campaign was to stop SOPA and there was great tactical success (Facebook posts, tweets, blogs) and the bill failed to pass, this would indicate a strategic success as well. Context is important in determining campaign success.

    After seeing all of the reddit and Facebook posts against SOPA, I was inspired to research the matter more myself. I then signed a petition against the act. So social media and web 2.0 helped me to be politically informed and in turn take action.

    To be honest, I trust my friend’s political opinions more than political insiders for several reasons. First of all, I know my friends are educated and cultured which can’t always be said about political insiders. Also my friends have similar experiences to my own so I can relate to them and in turn relate these experiences to my political views and actions. I do however value independent and nonpartisan information about political and economic issues facing our country. I like to look at my friends views, what the experts say, and independent sources so I can make informed political decisions.

  5. Travis Gonyou says:

    I would have to say that I would place more credibility behind a post from a political insider on my social networking site than a friend. I think there is a reason for this, which is that there are inherently opinion leaders in the political arena. Even with traditional media, theoretical models show that opinion leaders, who aggregate a lot of information, generally inform those around them and disseminate this to the general public. This might be through normal conversation or a post on a Facebook wall. I would say that these political insiders are acting as opinion leaders and are still shaping the public knowledge of current events. One can still learn from social media without participating directly in the dissemination of the information, which is what I think the Pasek study shows.

  6. ekaz95 says:

    I think in this case a key factor to consider is relevancy. We are going to give the most attention to, and be most affected by, internet material that is relevant to us on some level. This relevancy may come from a desire to learn for the purpose of building on personal interests or viewing/sharing in order to communicate with your friends and add to the conversation. If you’re seeking out information relevant to personal interests, for example, it would seem that the value of political insiders or experts would matter most. However, there is a wealth of information available on any given subject, thus those articles or videos that have been tactically success are those that are viewed and shared within such interest groups. If you happen to feel strongly against pro-life movements but have friends who are either apathetic or strongly pro-choice, you may seek out blogs, twitter accounts, or other news sources on political candidates and issues beyond your social networking realm in order to remain connected and informed. However, when there is perhaps a more general relevancy, say with the presidential election, those who don’t feel strongly about particular nominees may look to their friends to see what is being said. If you happen to know that you have respect for certain individuals who have similar values and interests as you, you feel a sense of trust in what they share. Their information about a political candidate or issue is likely to be more relevant to you than articles or videos posted by someone you rarely know or have few mutual opinions with.

    The goal is that this your ‘social capital’ will be created based on a balance and symbiotic relationship between the internal drive for self-interest and external drive for social engagement. It would be difficult to be highly informed on every political issue about every political candidate at all times, so you are able to pick and choose what you find to be most relevant and interesting to yourself. The gaps then can be filled by links shared by your twitter and facebook friends in order to stay up-to-date on the general political atmosphere – including opposing stances. The reciprocity comes into play when, ideally, you are sharing the information you have found on your own and contributing to the pot luck of political messages that can be made available within your own social community.

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