“The Candidates Each Have 140 Characters…”

When then-Congressman Newt Gingrich authored his Contract With America and led the revolution that put the Republicans back into the majority in the US House of Representatives for the first time in 40 years, the Internet was in its infancy: Netscape was the number one browser, Google wasn’t in the dictionary, Mark Zuckerberg was in elementary school and twitter was still the verb used to describe what old ladies did in reaction to one another’s “saucy” exchanges. CNN, with its 24 hours a day, seven days a week vast expanse of programming time to fill, was the media platform of choice for politicians to wax eloquent or ad nauseum.

Seventeen years later, the now 67 year old Newt took to Twitter and Facebook this week to announce his candidacy for the Republican Presidential nomination for 2012. He followed other GOP hopefuls Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty, who over the last several weeks have also used social media to make big, Presidential ambition announcements. Set aside for a minute the irony of three older white guys who not too long ago would have been clamoring for airtime on CNN now deciding to communicate their aspirations via these channels of increasingly pervasive influence and reach. Even more startling is the delicious irony of Gingrich, a gassy windbag of historic proportion, endeavoring to curtail his overblown puffery to 140 characters – and therein lies the remarkable juxtaposition of social media and US politics.

A new media paradigm that favors brevity, truncated exposition, emoticons and acronyms to communicate even the most deeply felt thoughts and feelings does not, at first glance, seem well-suited to the often-jarring combination of soaring rhetoric and stultifying pontification that infuses the dialogue of the American political process. Obama, despite his own tendency to oratorical flights of fancy, got it right in 2008 by assembling a team of social media wunderkind to craft his message for the Facebook generation and who borrowed heavily from Marshall McLuhan in recognizing that the medium truly is the message.

As Twitter matures, Facebook becomes more corporate and embracing of its enormous marketing potential, and our culture at large — from tweens nearing the voting age to aging baby boomers voting to preserve health care and Social Security — continues to gain more social media fluency, it will be fascinating to observe the impact on our political process. Can a candidate for President of the United States of America in 2012 really convey the complexity of his/her health care plan in 140 characters, or propose new social policy within the narrow confines of a Facebook update? They will have to, because fluency in this new communications world demands brevity and shuns the rhetoric and oratory that historically drove campaigns and their candidates to the Oval Office. For those of us in communications, we will be watching closely at how this cycle of campaign consultants craft their candidates messages to fit within these new parameters. There will be little margin for error and great opportunity to continue to redefine how politicians communicate with their constituencies. In a dystopian world it might get someone like Sarah Palin elected…but my money’s on O.

–Brian T. Regan

What We’re Reading: Tetris beats stress, Mashable connects veterans

As America saluted the troops and Facebook continued to dominate the social sphere, the Access team was hard at work in our efforts to bring you the latest and greatest from around the World Wide Web.

Here are the stories you may have missed this week.

  • Booming in Social Media: Adults above the age of 65 are the fastest growing segment of boomers using social media, doubling their usage by 26 percent this year (according to a new study released today by ComScore and AgeLessons). More interesting, Boomers caring for aging parents are more reliant on sites like Facebook, using social platforms for approximately 150 minutes a month and viewing 70 percent more pages than the average user.
  • Going Social for the Veterans: In honor of Veteran’s Day, Mashable posted an interesting piece on how social media is helping to make veteran service organizations better. The Department of Veterans Affairs is using Twitter, Facebook and other channels to help link new veterans with old veterans, among other tasks. The VA is also using the platforms to add a much needed face to the organization.
  • Social Media to Succeed Email: A new report issued by Gartner forecasts that by 2014,  20 percent of business users will use social networks as their primary means of communications, both personally and professionally. The report goes a one step further and states that email systems will be pushed to integrate contacts and calendars into their favorite social networking platforms. What's more, Gartner says that contact lists, calendars and messaging clients on smart phones will all be capable of connecting with social networking platforms by 2012.This is part of an overall industry trend to migrate email from on-premise to cloud supported platforms.
  • Gaming and PTSD: The video game Tetris may have the capability to provide a benefit beyond entertaining avid gaming consumers. A new study from Oxford University found that participants, who played Tetris a few hours after exposure to trauma, were less susceptible to flashbacks, a common symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Have a great week!


ABC News & Facebook To Live Stream Election Coverage [VIDEO]

Rather than shouting at the television on Election Day, engaged voters can watch and share in the joys and miseries of democracy as they happen. This November, ABC News will live stream its election coverage from Facebook. Viewers can post comments and questions, and of course share news with their friends. ABC News also teamed with the social network for the 2008 Presidential election; with Facebook now hundreds of millions of users larger now, it will be interesting to see how politically engaged and participatory this community is.

From a media perspective, this partnership just makes sense. More and more people are gravitating toward the Internet for their news and Election Day will likely light up Twitter and Facebook with political talk anyway, so ABC is putting itself in a position to tap into the energy of that audience.

Access recently spoke with Stephanie Wash of ABC News about how the company is using social media. Check out the video below to see what she had to say.

–Danielle Mandragona

Social Media Working Group


What We’re Reading: New Twitter, the Rise of Gadgets, and More

This week Twitter announced some significant changes, while fashion and business have become more social. See what piqued our interest this week.

•   Twitter got a facelift. This is why it matters.

•    Social Media took the fashion world by storm
at New York Fashion Week, with consumers across the globe given
(virtually) access to fashion’s elite. Consumers can now take part in
fashion shows, vote on style trends and even interact virtually with the
designers. Brands are also able to leverage this real-time interaction
into e-commerce opportunities, most notably sales.

•    We Love Logistics: that's the name of UPS’ first global business-to-business campaign launched on September 13. Targeting business decision-makers, the campaign will incorporate direct mail, print, TV, digital and social media to emphasize its breadth of services.

•    Thanks to the high demand for electronic portability, retailers are shifting to handheld gadgets to stock up their storefronts, according to the Wall Street Journal. Instead of desktops and big-screen TVs, holiday shoppers should expect to see more e-readers, smartphones and other mobile devices.

•    A recent study of consumer behavior on Facebook shed new light on Facebook’s role in exposing consumers to brands.  Findings? The average Facebook fan ‘Likes’ nine different brands.

Now it's time for the weekend.

–The Access Point Staff


What We’re Reading

This was a week full of distractions from work: a last-minute victory by the United States over Algeria to advance in the 2010 World Cup, the N.B.A. draft, and the arrival of some new phone. But Friday is a good day to catch up on reading, so see what came across our screens this week.

•    A new study found that while more than three in four companies are using social media, less than half actually have a plan on where to go with it. 
•    MediaPost is being coy about how it feels that so many companies lack a social media plan: “Your Half-Assed Social Media Strategy Is A  Quagmire
•    Google takes on Apple by upstaging iPhone 4 release
•    Twitter announces new app to “follow” Facebook friends automatically. It’s immediate blocked by Zuckerberg and friends.
•    Be an “influencer,” get free stuff.

Have a great weekend!

–Trevor Jonas
Director of Social Media