Virtual Worlds: Can “Honest” and “Political Social Media” Be In the Same Sentence?

With a little over a year left until the 2012 elections in the states, the social media profiles of prospective candidates are already off and running. While these profiles are a great way to keep up with what a candidate is doing, it is pretty common knowledge that the candidates themselves generally don’t update the profiles themselves but instead hire someone to do the job. I often choose not to post comments to the Facebook profiles of politicians or to @ mention them on Twitter, because I have to wonder if my voice is being heard by anyone but the intern sitting at a cramped desk in a corner somewhere. It seems like my thoughts just add to the buzz of the internet chatter and then disappear as if they were never there.

However if Ida Auken, member of the now-reigning party of the Danish parliament, was my politician I would feel much more confident that my online posts really mattered. Taking the social in social media very seriously, Ida tries to use her Facebook, Twitter, and blog to have a conversation with her constituents, rather than just talk at them. She is the woman behind the keyboard on all her social media profiles and really makes an effort to read and respond to any posts or comments made. She has even gone so far as to use an argument tweeted by a constituent during an Parliamentary debate! How’s that for fifteen minutes of fame?

During her conversation with my Virtual Worlds and Social Media class at the Danish Parliament on Wednesday, Ida stressed the importance of being honest on the web. I would choose a different word to describe Ida and her social media strategy: modest. From her casual outfit of black jeans and a blouse to her relaxed manner in chatting with a room full of American students to the way she presents herself on the web, Ida exudes and air of cool, collected modesty. She is not trying to be a celebrity like many US politicians seem to do. She does not feel she is better or smarter than her constituents, but truly feels she is a politician in order to represent the people.

All of this can be seen in the way she represents herself as a real person on the web. Her posts have a clear, punchy voice and are very conversational. She really makes an effort to connect with her followers by posing questions on her profiles, and her followers have motivation to actually respond with the confidence that their words will be ready by the person they are addressing them to. Ida is so serious about this idea of creating a conversation on the web that she has played with the idea of creating an app or other platform for people to discuss problems with her.

In an ideal world, all politicians would be this genuine on the web. Unfortunately, due to the always-moving nature of the web, keeping up with social media has really become a full time job, especially for someone as high-profile as a politician. Even Ida remarked about having difficulties keeping up with the pace of her followers, and she is dealing with a much smaller demographic than most US politicians. So while I wish all politicians were the ones behind their profiles, I understand why they are not.

Perhaps Ida should be advised to start getting some help as well. Even if she still wants to be the one actually doing the writing, perhaps she can find a compromise. Having someone else keep track of the conversation, post less personal things such as pictures, and think about the social media strategy–which Ida clearly spends a lot of time considering– could open up more time for her to focus on governing. It’s a difficult line to walk on, but it may become necessary to really keep the conversation flowing as her following grows.

And Ida, I’d hold off on that app for now. No need to reinvent the wheel, when you already have several great platforms for conversation! Just work on using them to their fullest!

What do you think about the use of social media by politicians? Do you think it is a useful tool, or just another way for them to advertise their messages to you?

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One thought on “Virtual Worlds: Can “Honest” and “Political Social Media” Be In the Same Sentence?

  1. I might be more apt to put my comments on this format at the time things are fresh in my mind- rather than write my representative an e-mail- letter or make a phone call and most of the time- I never get around to it- when I really want to let them know how I feel about an issue- and give them my ideas or opinion– Just a thought from Harrisburg, Pa. from a senior citizen– Grandma Greenawald

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