zworeck

Keeps Facebook on my Mind

In Uncategorized on March 4, 2010 at 8:16 pm

My interview with Lauren Culbertson who’s in charge of communications and new media for Senator Johnny Isakson’s campaign:

What is the name of your position?
The way our office works, we don’t technically have titles, but I’m referred to as communications and new media.  

What does new media include? 
All of our emails, Twitter, Facebook, surveys polls; I handle any type of creative messaging through the Internet.

What does a day look like for you?
It really depends on what’s going on. Since I work for Johnny Isakson, when Congress is in recess I’m out of the office going with him wherever he’s going. I’ll go to events, like GOP breakfasts and dinners. When he’s in DC I spend the whole day in the office and still go to events but a lot of the time I’m monitoring what’s going on online. I  am always updating the Twitter and Facebook pages. A lot of the time its doing emails and recruiting new people for email list/updates. I also work to fundraise through new media.

Which social media outlets do you use most frequently? Which are the most effective? Least effective?
 I see the most response to the Facebook page. Compared to other senators, we actually have a pretty large following. I think it’s because of our demographic. Also, we started our Facebook page a while ago. Our Twitter is pretty new. I wouldn’t really say any of it is ineffective, but it is really hard to fundraise to through new media.

 How do you see new media changing the face of politics?
It’s making politics more personal. Ten years ago you wouldn’t have any idea or updates about what your senator is doing everyday. Now its different. Before you see something on a major news outlet, it’s already on Twitter. Social media is a great fit for politics because politics is so fast paced. It lets you get a message out in real-time.

Why do you think social media is becoming so popular for politicians? Why are they reaching out and embracing different outlets?
One is the pressure or competition. Getting involved is showing you’re keeping up with what’s going on. In our office, Senator Isakson was interested in how social media affected the 2008 Presidential race.  Scott Brown’s election especially peaked his interest.

Practically, it’s just another way to communicate with a constituent, and that’s a top priority for a member of congress. In Georgia, especially because we are geographically a large state, sometimes it’s harder to get around to all parts of the state. With new media, it helps us to be with the constituents even when we aren’t there. It’s the next best thing to face-to-face communication with a constituent.

Are there any down-sides to this development?
If you do social media right, it’s a great thing. However if you do it poorly it can be a really bad thing. In order to make it work it has to be a priority. Because if you screw it up, you can really screw it up.

For the constituents, what would you say is the best way to stay in-the-know about your congressperson using social media?
It really depends on the person. Twitter and Facebook have their own ways of delivering information, so you have to decide how you want to receive the information. But people thank us all the time for our Facebook page because it lets them know what Senator Isakson is doing.

Do you think that social media makes campaigning easier or harder? Easier as in being able to reach out to more people, or harder having one more thing to manage?  

It’s both. Even though it’s one more thing to do, and it’s a hard thing to do, in comparison to the benefits it has, developing new media is well worth it. It’s a net positive. Traditional campaigning without social media requires A LOT of money to reach out to a large amount of people. While it’s free to get a Facebook or Twitter page, it does cost money to staff and develop them, but it is definitely more cost-effective. It’s different from sending a press release or email, because now the constituents can comment and you can comment back.

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