I would like to preface this post with the fact that I am biased in my view of the upcoming Austin Mayors Race. I support Mayor Pro Tem Brewster McCracken to be the future leader of our great city.
But I do find the below observation an interesting look at the workings of social media. At the end of the day, social media is social and it has to be authentic. If you try to manipulate social media or use it just for your own PR (without legitimately engaging others) then it is not real.
The social media world is not a fad, and Barak Obama has proven that politicians can and should live online. It is a wonderful two-way communication vehicle. Obama was not the first politician to appear in social online communities, but he certainly did it better than anyone else. He was engaging and engaged. The grassroots power of those who live, work, and play in the online world is here to stay.
Brewster McCracken has a presence on Twitter and other online mediums (Long term user of LinkedIn - over 200 contacts AND Facebook - over 800 contacts). He has not just looked at these tools as something new to use for the election.
He has always been a supporter of the local entrepreneurial tech community and he understands that Austin's future depends on the same innovation and vision that matter to growing businesses. Our city has never looked backwards or avoided the risks that come with growth.
Only one of Brewster's two opponents is on Twitter (interesting, however that many of the candidates for City Council are also "tweeting"). Lee Leffingwell is on Twitter as @TheLeeTeam, not as @LLeffingwell (which makes his involvement appear to be a campaign stunt). Brewster is there clearly as @BMcCracken. He is not using it as part of a campaign, he is there as a human being. A real person. He is communicating with people on Twitter. Sure, he is running for mayor, but as a person.... not a team of campaign people.
It is really, really him talking with his followers on Twitter. I know, because I have talked to him about it. It is not some random campaign staffers filling up Twitterville with more noise by chatting away in 140 characters or less. Brewster is interested in using Twitter, learning about Twitter (and all things that are impacting our society), and connecting with constituents. He knows that real people participate in social media communities, and thus he sees the value in being an active participant in social media himself.
Twitter is not for everyone, and many who read this blog might say "Twitter - waste of time - who cares if a mayor candidate is on Twitter". But this goes deeper than than the debate of the value of Twitter, or any other social media platform. It is about authenticity.
Everyone believes President Obama was personally involved with his campaign social media strategy... NOBODY thinks McCain was involved with his (yes, McCain had a social media strategy, too... just not executed very well - and all run by staffers).
I could be wrong about Mr. Leffingwell. Maybe he does all his own "tweeting". But in my opinion he is only on Twitter for the election, telling his 83 Twitter friends (84, I now follow him, too) about his latest fundraiser or other activities. From looking at it, there is a lot of talking "at" people in his Twitter strategy. I question why Leffingwell's Team is even there at this point (maybe because Brewster is there? Ouch, not the right reason to join a social media community! His page appeared three days after McCracken joined Twitter).
Why does this matter to regular people and businesses? (AKA, those of us NOT running for mayor). It matters because the social media train is leaving the station, and we can choose how we want to ride... or if we are going to let it pass us by. This does not mean everyone has to jump on the train RIGHT NOW (you have to want to be there).... And fortunately there will be other stops along the way, and you will be welcome when the time is right!! Twitter is not so much the social media "answer" (I still question it in some ways) as it is a high profile case study of how to authentically engage with others via an internet community.
If you treat social media as you do traditional advertising / marketing (one way communication), you are old school and everyone will know it. Twitter is not about a team of people trying to market a candidate. It is about real people (not hired staff) who are actively sharing with other human beings.
On a funny side note, @TheLeeTeam deleted or "blocked" the people involved with the McCracken Campaign from following them on Twitter. Their "tweets" are not private (you can see them at www.twitter.com/theleeteam even if you are not an anointed and approved follower), so blocking them was only an "anti-social-social-media-maneuver". In social media, being anti-social can be a bad bad thing.
I don't think that Brewster will block any of the citizens of Austin from his Twitter stream...even if they support his opponents. I would be offended if someone who wanted to be mayor blocked me on Twitter because I supported the other guy. I thought in today's era of "change" we were supposed to be beyond such things.
Have A Great Day.