Tuesday, January 2, 2007

John Edwards' social media campaign

In announcing that his candidacy for the President of the United States, John Edwards has shown a remarkable grasp of and appreciation of the power of social media. For one thing, he announced his intention to announce his candidacy on YouTube. He’s obviously comfortable with blogging, MySpace, and Flickr.

But even moreso, as the Washington Post observed, he seems to get that social media has transformed the power structure and the way we communicate: “Smart candidates know the old command-and-control structures of politics don't work anymore. Instead, campaigns are all about building communities and speaking directly to supporters, whether through email or podcasts or what the Edwards team calls "webisodes."”

Time magazine noted: “Once he made it official, Edwards' campaign pitch got even more unorthodox. He started his short speech by saying Americans needed to "take action" in a way that almost seemed to minimize the importance of whoever might be President — now or in 2009. "We want people in this campaign to actually take action now," Edwards said, "not later, not after the election. We don't want to hope that whoever's elected the next leader of the United States of America is going to solve all our problems for us. Because that will not happen." He encouraged people to volunteer, particularly in storm-damaged areas in New Orleans.”

Social media is all about this ‘power to the people’ mentality. And so far, Edwards seems to be one of the few politicians who has gone beyond simply trying to manipulate the new tools using the old mindset. As one blogger noted, if he’s elected in 2008, Edwards is well-poised to be the first Social Media President.