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Saturday, March 17, 2012

Social Media and Political Activism

The Huffington Post reports:
As social media comes of age, a host of platforms for social engagement and online organizing are making their presence known, from sites like Ruck.usto Avaaz. While the spectre of slackatavism still lingers over the entire realm of online political action, the last year has shown just how potent the marriage of social media and boots on the ground organizing can be.
The article profiles Jim Gilliam, CEO of NationBuilder, which allows nontechnical people to set up campaign sites.

"It's harder and harder to grab people's attention," Gilliam said. "You can't just buy television advertising and expect for anyone to pay attention to it. So even big companies have this problem. And there's this model that's been worked on for literally thousands of years called community organizing. It started with Moses, right? Its the idea of building relationships, talking with people, holding events and organizing around this sort of model.
"A whole generation of folks that sort of now have this opportunity to not ask permission from the traditional gatekeepers."
"Turns out that politics is all just counting numbers," Gilliam said. "That's actually all it is, campaigns. All you have to do is count the numbers better than the other person counts numbers and you can basically determine at the beginning of the campaign how many votes you need. And then the question is: who's going to find them first? Obviously it's more complicated than that because people aren't going to give you their vote if they don't like your message. There's all kind of stuff like that, but really all it boils down to is: you're counting voters." 

At the San Francisco Chronicle, Joe Garofoli reports that activists have long tried to pressure advertisers to drop programs and hosts they didn't like. As the case of Rush Limbaugh suggests, social media give them new strength:
Activist groups appeal to their members - which range from a few thousand to a few million depending on the size of the organization, to exert pressure on advertisers with telephone calls, e-mail messages and mass postings to the companies' Twitter and Facebook sites.
"The real difference is that now consumers have the ability to talk to marketers one-on-one," said Brad Adgate, director of research at Horizon Media, an advertising and media analytical firm. "Now, within a matter of hours you can have 7,000 comments on a company's Facebook page, which is very public."
Dozens of advertisers have left Limbaugh's program, Adgate said, because of the pressure.