Engaging audiences with social media

Social media, social networking, user-generated media: These have become crucial elements of strategic communications in business and politics. Educational organizations can adopt some of these strategies as well. The following observations come from media consultants profiled in the June issue of Fast Company magazine:

“In the television era of politics, the instinct was very much to control the message, to get the perfect sound bite. With the Internet, I think you have to release control as you do in a conversation. . . . the ability for things to go viral is in anybody’s hands. . . .”
Matthew Gross, senior adviser for online communications, John Edwards Campaign

“My prediction for ’08 is that user-generated content is going to force candidates to go positive with campaign advertising because the online airwaves will be flooded with negative stuff. That actually might be the biggest plus out of it all.”
Laura Crawford, media consultant, Republican National Committee

“We felt there were better ways to organize groups of people and get them to take action, rather than do all top-down organizing the way a campaign typically does. So we use existing social relationships, whether they are coworkers or friends asking each other to donate, or communities built around email lists of blogs.”
Matt Debergalis, cofounder, ActBlue

“Whoever came up with that Web site [www.barackobama.com/] was brilliant—the ability to completely network, get in touch with people who are organizing, and be able to set up events yourself.”
Kim Mack, cochair, Sacramento for Obama

“Other methods of communication are beginning to supplement television. Now you need to do television plus the Web, television plus bloggers, television plus social networking, so it all becomes part of a bigger piece. . . you always have to do things different and fresh. . . . What bloggers are saying today is going to wind up on the front page of The New York Times tomorrow.”
Russ Schriefer, media director, John McCain Campaign

“Because there are now so many more millions of people who are being engaged by politics online than in the last presidential election, our ability to control or fight back against media narratives is much stronger. We can create our own stories and push back against the ones that are BS. To me, the beauty of this medium is that there are so many centers of power in Netroots that no one can ever really dominate.”
Markos Moulitsas, blogger, Daily Kos

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