Monday, September 3, 2012

Free microphones for all

Conventions - and entire election seasons - have become a chorus of voices. From Facebook and Twitter to Tumblr and Reddit and everything in between, anyone with Internet access has the chance to speak up.

"The microphone is now free, and everyone can get a microphone," said Adam Sharp, head of government, news and social innovation at Twitter. "And if you have quality information, you can get scale for that."

Sharp joined panelists from Google, Facebook and the Obama campaign in "The Digital Campaign and Social Media's Impact," a National Journal discussion held in Charlotte today.

Each social media platform is different. Moderator Garance Franke-Ruta, a senior editor at The Atlantic, contrasted Twitter, a moment-by-moment news source, with Facebook, a countervailing force pushing people toward deeper stories. Tumblr is fun, said Joe Rospars, chief digital strategist for Obama's campaign.

Discussing Obama's interview session on Reddit last week, Rospars said it's another community to tap into for campaign organizing - much like Twitter and Facebook, but with its own unique culture.

The people who participate in social media determine their direction, but Twitter staff can step in to make content a little easier to access. When searching for #DNC2012 this week, Tweeters will find a special hashtag page, similar to pages created for the Republican National Convention and the 2012 Olympics.

"The way they work is we use a combination of editorial and algorithmic signals," said Rachael Horwitz, senior manager of communications at Twitter. Algorithms gather tweets based on certain hashtags while a team of editors track down accounts that might be relevant to the page. The editorial team sought out political journalists, candidates and delegates for the #DNC2012 page.

#DNC2012 is already moving at a speed that's hard to keep up with, and Horwitz says it will get even more exciting to watch the page during convention speeches this week.

"Twitter has a way of making people feel closer to the event," Horwitz said. "The tweets coming out of both conventions give people a sort of behind the scenes look at what's going on."

So don't fear - if you can't make it to the convention in Charlotte, you can be here without really being here. Watch the convention on a live stream here (available in English or Spanish) and check out YouTube's politics page for more coverage. To add your voice to the chorus, Tweet with hashtag #DNC2012 or chime in on Facebook on the DemConvention page or the Charlotte in 2012 page. You could even sign a petition to bring Betty White to the DNC.

You have your microphone - how will you use it?

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