The Internet is a fast and easy way to communicate. Interfaces like YouTube, MySpace, and Facebook have made the cyber world a social playground, making available the opportunity to share, converse, and collaborate. These social networking sites have established an opportunity for political campaigns to extend their reach beyond the conventional linear forms of communication, and created a multi-dimensional relationship between candidate and Internet user, if used correctly. By creating a more intimate and authentic relationship, political campaigns have the power to disseminate knowledge faster and to a broader audience than ever before. The Obama campaign had synthesized a variety of techniques, able to translate online energy to offline advocacy and grassroots support, advantageously using the user-driven characteristic of the Internet, proving to be successful with a presidential victory.
Guerorguieva outlines that social networking sites are cost effective platforms that allow for political advertising, fundraising efforts, and volunteer recruitment. Slotnick adds to this understanding by highlighting the Internet as a “central space for putting process into action” (250). Synthesizing their statements, the Internet is a platform that can be used to advance many campaign goals all in one place. This can come from the campaign itself or from a variety of other sources as Guerorguieva deems the “next Internet generation” one that is free and user-driven, able to “contribute as much as they consume” (235). The user-driven quality is a factor that Lutz cites as one of ten key points that other organizations can learn from the Obama campaign. That is, by inspiring users to share information and create information, the Obama campaign let activists do that talking. Lutz contends that, “the campaign could not possibly have generated this much content on its own. And it was better that it didn’t…the most trusted source of information is consistently ‘a person like myself’” (7). The Obama campaign was the first to harness many of capabilities the Internet provides, translating “online donor into votes… and online fervor into effective ground support” (Lutz 3). In doing so, Obama was able to combine both on and offline activity in such a way that created a political force of activists willing to fundraise, advocate, and campaign for him, that could not be matched.
Social networking sites provide a variety of resources and people to tap into. If communicated with correctly, as the Obama campaign indicates, can create a resource far greater than an online network. Clay Shirky would argue that social media is a springboard for collective action on behalf of political campaigns. As social media becomes a mainstream source for political action (fundraising, etc.) do you think that this will lead to increased control by the FEC? What might political campaigning look like in 10 years given what you know about its potential? Is this helpful or harmful to voters in the long run?