Monday, August 22, 2011

2012 Voters Organizing with Political Based Social Media Networks

Photo Credit - Flickr Common
In past elections, have you blindly voted for candidates knowing nothing about them or their campaign platform? Have you voted for an incumbent on name recognition only or simply because they had an “R” or “D” after their name without knowing their voting record?

Have you relied on the media for your political news? Do you believe everything you hear or read by the media? Do you
watch campaign ads believing they cannot say it if it is not true? Have you in fact allowed the media and campaign ads to shape your political opinions and votes?

Are you ready to change, to get informed, and to get more involved in the political process with the upcoming 2012 election? Many voters are. Many voters have even become citizen organizers.

The citizen organizer has the ability to identify like-minded individuals; to create political consensus; to establish political allies; to provide information outside of the candidate’s controlled message; and to persuade others in supporting or not supporting a candidate. This is true whether we are talking about politician campaigns or existing politicians – whether proposed bills or existing legislation.

Have you ever wanted to ask a politician a direct question, to express your opinion on proposed legislation, and track a politician’s voting record? Would you know how to go about this? Would you consider the time and effort involved a deterrent?

Houston, Texas based TellMyGov is a non-partisan social media network based in politics. It provides information on legislation currently being voted on as well as the specific voting history and campaign agenda of politicians. It also includes financial information for all elected officials.

TellMyGov allows voters to meet and organize. Members can create their own groups, post polls, debate in the forums, and share thoughts and feelings in the interactive chat rooms. There are periodic interviews with political figures and a comment forum for members to post questions for politicians.

TellMyGov Founder and CEO Boris Ackerman notes, “In these days and times it is apparent the majority of Americans can agree on one thing, our government is in desperate need of repair. TellMyGov is a free platform for every American to get connected and obtain valuable political information that affects every American on a local and national level. It is an unbiased place for American voters to voice their opinions in the upcoming elections.”

Ackerman shares his expertise:

BKH: What was your “light bulb” moment for TellMyGov?

BA: I wanted to join a political social network to communicate with other voters, but I could not find a site specifically providing this service. This is when the vision was formed to create an online community that connects voters to each other and to politicians.

BKH: Is the company or website funded by any Political Action Committee (PAC) or lobbyist money?

BA: The site is funded purely by advertisers. That can include political campaigns, lobbyists, companies, individuals, etc. The site is available for use by everyone, and the funding is just as diverse.

BKH: How do you retain party neutrality with TellMyGov?

BA: The site content is driven by its community members.

BKH: Facebook has many people forming political groups. How is TellMyGov similar and different?

BA: TellMyGov has unique group features that allow you to create events, add photos, post comments, chat, and add a video profile. We are working to expand these features.

BKH: Facebook has had a lot of member data privacy issues come into play in the past few months. How does TellMyGov handle member data privacy?

BA: We keep our member data private, and we allow the users to control their privacy settings.

BKH: What needs does TellMyGov meet?

BA: The site provides easy access to congressional information and a way for users to communicate about political topics across a social network.

BKH: Who is the target market for TellMyGov?

BA: Every American voter.

BKH: What has been the initial reaction of voters overall to TellMyGov?

BA: The initial reaction has been very positive. The site has been described as a great political resource and a much needed tool for the voters at a crucial time for our government.

BKH: What has been the initial reaction of politicians overall to TellMyGov?

BA: TellMyGov recently sponsored Kevin Brady on the radio show, The Price of Business, hosted by Kevin Price. During the show, Congressman Kevin Brady said “It looks great. You did a good job.”

BKH: What political party affiliation seems most engaged on TellMyGov?

BA: TellMyGov currently has a balanced set of members.

BKH: How do you counter any fraudulent results or hidden lobbying with TellMyGov?

BA: TellMyGov is a forum designed with open discourse in mind. It is a forum with rules. Like any interactive site, we encourage our users to report any suspected fraudulent activity.

BKH: What age group seems most engaged so far on TellMyGov?

BA: Our members range from 18 and up. All are equally engaged on the site.

BKH: What states have had the top voter engagement?

BA: Most are from Texas for now, which is probably due to our home office location of Houston.

BKH: Is it available for every U.S. Representative and Senator nationally?

BA: Yes.

BKH: Is it available for local and state politicians?

BA: Yes.

BKH: Does it contain information for every U.S. legislation bill or law?

BA: We offer information on top bills currently under review, sponsored bills per official, and top roll call votes for 2011. We are constantly working to expand and improve these features.

BKH: Does it contain information for every local and statewide legislation bill or law?

BA: Not yet, and we are working to add this to the site.

BKH: Do you believe politicians will listen to voters that engage them with TellMyGov?

BA: Yes, as our membership grows, we hope more and more politicians will use the site to engage with the voters.

BKH: This would be a great teaching tool in the classroom. Is TellMyGov working with schools or student groups?

BA: Yes. It will be a great teaching tool, and we are working on expanding the site to include schools.

BKH: Describe the radio program exposure you have received for TellMyGov?

BA: No radio programs are tied to TellMyGov. However, as a result of interest in our site, some programs have featured the site. We have worked with some programs to bring political interviews to the public through those programs. Questions from voters on TellMyGov are asked of the politicians.

BKH: What are your plans for additional site feature enhancement?

BA: We are working to include mobile access integration with the iPhone, iPad, and Blackberry. We are also planning to expand the site features to include information on current campaigns and the elections.

BKH: Do you plan on bringing TellMyGov to other countries ultimately?

BA: We are working on expanding the site to include other countries, but we certainly want to focus on the American system during this initial period.

BKH: Does TellMyGov have a direct line to the White House and President Obama, to Congress, to State Governors?

BA: Our direct line is the voting public.

BKH: How do you anticipate TellMyGov playing into the 2012 elections?

BA: TellMyGov will be a vital source of information on the local and national level for all voters. Voters will be able to have their voice heard by the politicians and interact directly with their campaigns to make a difference.

BKH: What do you hope voters take away from engaging with TellMyGov?

BA: I hope they will become more informed about politicians and feel connected to the election process.

BKH: What are your ultimate goals for TellMyGov?

BA: We want to make TellMyGov the top online resource that connects the voters to the political system. We want voters to have their opinion and vote matter.

BKH: Thank you Boris.

Facebook is the top resource for social networking with family and friends with Google+ on their heels. LinkedIn is the top resource for business networking with professionals, colleagues, and recruiters. Emerging political based social media networks, like TellMyGov and TheVoterEffect, are emerging resources for voters to more directly participate in the political process.

One thing is for sure. As we move into the 2012 election season, voters are looking for a real seat at the table, and they are organizing to be heard in their representation.

Voters know social media can easily facilitate this. Voters are more invested, and they feel ownership in the process. The expectation of two-way participation and communication in politics in real-time is an emerging and lasting dynamics with voters.

The days of politicians thinking the dynamic remains I talk, you listen, and you don’t question my message are over. The new dynamic is now you spoke, I listened; now you listen to me as I speak my experience and opinion - a two-way exchange and a more personal individual relationship is expected.

Should a politician ignore the two-way communication that social media fosters and voters and consumers expect, they will be viewed as out-of-touch and replaceable no matter how great the initial excitement, the strength of message, or the value of their platform.

In addition, once elected, politicians will have to live up to their campaign rhetoric in their actual voting record to be re-elected. The importance of listening to the people they represent is a growing factor with voters. Politically based social networks easily and directly facilitates this for voters and politicians.

Voters under 30 got involved in the 2008 Presidential election campaign in record numbers. Many became involved in politics for the first time in their lives – many through social media platforms.

Candidate Barack Obama changed politics forever by setting the bar for all future political candidates to strategize and effectively use social media in political campaigns. He proved out the tremendous power of social media if used with a positive, individual interest, networking message strategy.

The greatest impact of Obama’s powerful use of social media is in how social media as a tool is changing the face of politics and policy in general - not just in campaigning. Everyone learned by watching Obama including America’s citizens – the governed – the voters.

Not feeling their values and opinions were being listened to, let along being accurately represented in Congressional voting, American citizens got involved in political discourse in the last two years. Many typically non-political citizens got informed and involved for the first time in their lives. This included citizens of all ages.

Voters are watching politicians closely for action that backs up their words. Voters are organizing and connecting as they gear up for the 2012 elections.

In the post-Obama campaign evolution, the political focus in social media use will not necessarily be on a politician’s campaign message, for no candidate will be able to tightly control their branding and messaging like Obama seemed to successfully do in 2008.

The social media dynamics have evolved and become much more organized by citizens. The citizens are now in reality just as powerful as the politician’s press secretary and media relations today whether politics or the media like it or not.

Even if the media controls the brand and message by only presenting a candidate in a positive light, ignoring any emerging negative factors or a specific voting record, social media doesn’t allow this to go unchallenged as the only message people see or talk about anymore.

Voters are using key social media tactics to overcome the “power of politicians” who ignore their expressed desires in passing unwanted legislation and more taxation. Now social media affords in reality a leveling agent for both political campaigning and debate playing fields in the political realm.

In politics, these leveled playing fields allow for more accessibility, connection, and networking for the everyday, everyman participant; and these leveled fields are much more equal in several ways to a candidate’s political campaign team’s level.

The everyman has the ability to have a political discussion that is person-to-person and person-to-group with an unlimited audience. This is true even if the everyman has no actual access to traditional media or no actual participation in televised candidate debates.

Voters are now more directly engaging politicians by asking specific questions, expressing their opinion on proposed legislation, and tracking Congressional voting records. Voters are now more directly effecting their own futures having seen how public policy and legislation directly affects their economic stability and individual freedoms.

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