Special Report: Politics of Social Media

Updated: Tuesday, April 21 2015, 11:15 AM EDT
Special Report: Politics of Social Media story image
A week from today, voters head to the polls for North Carolina's May primary election, to cast their ballots the old fashioned way.

But the old-fashioned way of shaking hands to win votes is changing. There's a big focus now on social media. 

A perfect example, the Democratic Primary that pits incumbent Buncombe County District Attorney Ron Moore, against Asheville Attorney Todd Williams. Both are trying to follow a proven game plan, that helped another Democrat win the highest office in the land. 

Incumbent Ron Moore, treeting supporters at his campaign kick-off. Challenger Todd Williams doing the same thing, the old school approach. Both candidates for D.A. will tell you they prefer this type of politicking. But there's no getting around being social, 21st century style.

"The Obama folks really refined it, you know, it was amazing what they did with it," says Moore. "We didn't start on it until after we had a challenger," he adds. Ron Moore is a veteran campaigner, admittedly new to the social media game. "I think you've got to be careful not to lose the human element of talking to people, and looking them in the eye, as opposed to, you've got your head down and you have calluses on your thumbs," says Moore.

"We're going to do everything we can to work social media to our advantage," says Williams. He says his online campaign was up-and-running from day one, always part of the plan. "I like to feel that I'm very good with people, face to face, but I am comfortable with this as well, I can control the message," says Williams. He is on Facebook and Twitter, and so is Ron Moore. Being online helps candidates project an image, chronicle their campaigns, reach-out to voters, then hope online followers spread the word.

"Retweeting is absolutely a goal, and sharing on Facebook, any kind of viral connectivity is critical to the success of a social media campaign," says UNCA Professor, Dr. Mark West. Professor West teaches Mass Communication Theory and Research. He tracks how politicians connect most effectively and efficiently. In 2014, the keyboard dominates. "I think that the day in which television advertising is where announcements are made has been eclipsed by the web," he says.

"With Twitter, social media, you're reaching over 69% of the population," says Political Organizer Jonathan Ammons. Ammons had the job of Digital Lead for the 2012 Obama campaign, in Buncombe County. Social media proved to be a critical component in winning a second term in the White House. "Obama just cleaned the floor in 2012, because he understood where the conversations were happening and he went there," says Ammons. "Obama had 32,000,000 Facebook followers, and Mitt Romney only had 12,000,000," he says. "If they're all talking over here and you're ignoring that chatter that 69% of the population is doing, why are you even running, you're completely missing the boat, you're completely missing the target," says Ammons.

The candidates for Buncombe County D.A. will be pushing for the next week, both online and on the ground. Public appearances, lots of handshaking, while staffers do phone-banking and door-knocking. All those are still considered key to any political campaign, at least for now.

"Twitter has become the constituency, Facebook has become the constituency, because those are the people," says Ammons. "The railroads died because they weren't keeping up with the times, don't let your politics do the same thing," he adds.

Another big advantage of social media is the physical hardware. Hand-held technology means campaign headquarters is always on the move. Remember, new or old-school, all the campaigning ends a week from today, May 6th.Special Report: Politics of Social Media
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