The Social Media Tug of War: SOTU Style

The State of the Union streamed faster online than any of the networks could achieve on Television.  In the world of Twitter, conversation around the hash tag #SOTU soared, accounting for thousands upon thousands of updates on the aggregating machine. On sites like the New York Times and The Washington Times, live bloggers updated, updated, and updated. People gravitated to the pixels on computer screens and smart phones like citizen zombies, edging in a commenta critiquea joke, to see if anyone was listening.

But was anyone listening to the President?

Social media consultant, Jen Nedeau, was part of an effort with New York media consultant, Dan Gerstein, to organize a group of live bloggers and spur a substantive online discussion around the State of the Union. Her answer to the question above – was anyone actually listening? Most likely, would be a resounding yes.

“Social media allows the conversation that used to happen in the family living room, over the dinner table or within the knitting circle expand into a global dialogue. As the President gives his speech tonight, we will all be tuned in – not only to what he is saying – but to what those around us are saying.”

Nedeau, who earned her social media chops as a digital strategist in Washington, D.C. and New York City, went on to say that the online conversation in-stream with the President’s speech, “creates the unique ability for political thought to expand and explode beyond the television broadcast.”

Could she be right? In the last decade, technology has soared to new heights – at the turn of the century, words like Kindle, Android, Tablet and Geotargeting were hardly in our language. But in a short period of time, boundaries have disappeared and with it, unspeakable progress has occurred. But have all the channels for talk brought about setbacks, too?

Gerstein, founder of Gotham Ghostwriters and a columnist at Forbes, takes the question above and colors in a different point of view. With Gotham’s live blogging effort, he says, average political junkies are given an alternative to the talking heads found on network TV.

“Before these tools were available, people had to listen to talking heads yak at them.  Now they can directly engage political pros and experts in a two-way conversation, ask them questions, and quite possibly enlighten them.”

Gerstein makes a point – and with it, speaks to perhaps the biggest success the President didn’t address in the State of the Union: WhiteHouse.Gov. A web site that has made press briefings available live, visitor records downloadable, daily photos accessible, and Q&A’s with Administration officials a mouse click away. Tonight WhiteHouse.gov live streamed the address (yes, faster than the networks could), held a live video Q&A afterward, and uploaded the official remarks and two blog posts (onetwo) after.

My point – which is not to ignore the fact that I, like Nedeau and Gerstein, use social media to engage others and to tap into a larger conversation – is that we are all in this pixilated society together. But what does it mean for moving a President’s political agenda forward – any President for that matter, post-social media? Can either side build up enough strength, enough collaboration, enough bipartisanship, to tug the social media rope hard enough and bring over to the other side?

To see a Flickr feed of the social media story from the State of the Union, click here.

5 thoughts on “The Social Media Tug of War: SOTU Style”

  1. As a small business owner and voracious consumer / user of social media, it’s very encouraging to see people turn to different channels for information and to share. My challenge is to be relevant in the maelstrom out there. To your final points, Mademoiselle America, what is the Obama strategy to win that tug of war? I hope there is a laser focused effort by the WH to create a Dresden style social media effect. Define those tactics, define the relevant / authoritative voices, and define the measurements. Execute, repeat. Go Obama!

  2. How can the President’s message be heard in its entirety by people who are busy tweeting or posting while he’s still speeching? I’d say that’s a net negative on the national discourse. The President’s message deserves to be heard in its entirety by virtue of the fact that he is the President. If the blogoshpere is lit up like a Christmas tree while he’s still talking, then they’re discussing an incomplete message, and therefore they’re not fully prepared to debate his message.

  3. 1. I am not surprised, and quite elated, at the direction live, film media is taking to go online. It truly is the new frontier if it is available faster on your monitor than your tele.
    2. I think thousands upon thousands of twitter messages during SOTU or any address creates distraction. We live in an environment where you can’t just sit and absorb anything. There are constantly lights flashing which likely cause subconscious mental distraction over what a presidential address should be: an opportunity to listen and reflect on what the leader is saying. Then let’s have the conversation.
    That said, I totally missed SOTU; I was eating Ethiopian food and discussing rural development in Rajasthan with a close friend. Wish I had seen it; curious to know what he said!

  4. So here is an interesting article up your alley:
    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/35177396/ns/politics-washington_post/

    I think it is interesting to see the GOP taking plays straight from the Dem’s book. The funny thing to me is that the ideals that these “grass root activists” are fighting for are directly out of line with those of typical grassroot movements:

    - Conservatives believe in the individual over society. How can you build a social movement when the society is exactly what you are working against?
    - When the only thing that matters in your value set is making money, how can anything be truly “grassroots”? The vultures of profits will always circle.
    - The GOP advocates solely for the private sector. What does that mean for organizing events? Marketing? Staffing? Etc…

    I bring this up because I see how the Tea Bag Convention is rife with problems and profiteering. If something like that happened to the Dems, we would go find a farm nearby to the original venue. Pay the farmer a few grand and effectively recreate Woodstock.

    We’ll see how this plays out.

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