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Gray outguns Fenty in the social media battle

gray_media.jpgMayor Adrian Fenty's reelection campaign, for its many millions, hasn't much invested in social media -- the much ballyhooed online tools such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube that allow candidates to find supporters and harness their enthusiasm.

The Green Team's had a Facebook page for some time, but the campaign focus -- as in 2006 -- has been on door-to-door canvassing and rush-hour sign-waving more than tweeting and blogging.

In the grand scheme, that might be a smart move -- nothing beats the power of face-to-face contact, after all. But when your campaign premise is that you're the young, hard-charging guy who's going to move the city into the future, it does not behoove you to get out-technologized by the supposedly stodgy old-timer.

And Vincent Gray's campaign is doing just that -- with a Twitter account, a campaign blog, a YouTube channel and more.

Even in the arena where Fenty's had a big head start, Gray's caught up quick: His Facebook page has thus far earned 949 "likes," just shy of Fenty's 996.

"The idea is to run the most engaged online campaign that the District has seen," says Ian Koski, Gray's new media director. The 30-year-old Ward 6 resident is a veteran online-media campaigner who has worked for Blue State Digital, the firm renowned for running the online campaign operations for Barack Obama's presidential bid.

Late last week, the Fenty campaign upgraded its tech-outreach firepower, launching a much-upgraded Web presence -- including a Twitter account and a campaign blog. But while the tools are now there, the engagement is not. Neither have been updated much since last week. The blog as yet has no comment function. And it's unclear whether the Fenty camp has a full-time online engagement staffer. (I made inquiries with the Fenty campaign this morning but am waiting on some detailed answers on their new media strategy.)

Embracing social media, of course, works both ways -- as the Gray campaign learned Thursday. When news broke that Gray has moved to cut funding for streetcars on H Street NE, pro-streetcar activists rallied via Twitter and blog comment sections against the decision -- which Gray ultimately reversed. The Gray Web site itself hosted (and continues to host, to the campaign's credit) more than 120 almost uniformly vitriolic comments about the move.

Koski calls the streetcar blowup "a good case study" for the power of social media. "People spoke up. They had an issue. The campaign knew about it, we saw it, and we did out best to engage," he says. "That's the power of the Internet."

Meanwhile, Fenty might have missed a prime opportunity to rally his own supporters -- and, judging from the comments on the Gray blog, gather more than a few votes.

Koski relishes the irony. "The mayor is young and tech-savvy, supposedly," he says. "But they seem to be a little behind."

By Mike DeBonis  |  June 2, 2010; 4:06 PM ET
Categories:  Adrian Fenty , DCision 2010 , Vincent Gray  | Tags: 2010 election, Adrian Fenty, Facebook, Twitter, Vincent Gray, blogs, dc mayor, engagement, social media, streetcars dc  
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Interesting story. Last year, after DC DOES Director Joseph Walsh abruptly terminated our agreement with the city, leaving hundreds of kids jobless, it ended up putting Mayor Fenty at a disadvantage with respect to a social media strategy the 2009 Summer Youth Employment Program participants had developed for Mayor Fenty under the @MayorFenty Twitter account. You'll recall Walsh was the boss who told his employees to 'act' like they were working and that he 'Walsh' would just pay everybody because they were too lazy to keep track of the hours his newly hired staff was working. Remember 'David Le'? See the Washington Post story by Nikita Stewart, same time last year.

Allegedly, our agreement was terminated because I sent kids on an employment outreach program to DC city contractors regarding a violation of DC law. There's just one problem. The federal statute says what I did was legal AND authorized under Federal Law. Wanna see a copy of the regulations?

I'm game for healthy debate on any issue as long as the game Walsh is playing doesn't come at the expense of DC residents, their children, and the employers.

Message to DC residents: Most of the District's Twitter accounts are held in trust for you and your kids if only there was a Director at the post who actually cared about the kids and didn't commit so many errors in trying to run a summer jobs program. The errors are too numerous to detail here, but guess what?

I will be posting the details on Twitter. It is documented that I have been sounding the alarm about things I see wrong like the names and addresses of people who live in other states but take advantage of the SYEP program. I have been sounding the alarm about the problems with payroll that Walsh has hidden and lied to the media to their very faces last year. I have been more than patient with Walsh allowing him almost a year now to work things out with my legal counsel. My patience, is just about run out. I am about to people the real power of social media when wayward agency heads lose their way. Me and some of my follwers will help them find their way, to the exit sign when the people have HAD ENOUGH.

Posted by: jobforce | June 2, 2010 7:41 PM | Report abuse

BTW - I was on Team Fenty as a supporter. I'm about to jump ship. Sorry Mayor Fenty. Sorry I told the SYEP's to reserve Twitter accounts and the @MayorFenty Twitter account. If your staff had let me and the kids I trained continue, you would have been way ahead right now. I repeatedly tried to get your staff to run the @MayorFenty account with the DOES team but they just didn't get my strategies. Maybe they didn't believe I have social media street 'cred'. But there are social media tools for that you know. Try '' or '' and you can check the street cred' of any social media user.

Note: please excuse any typos. I'm still not that good typing with one finger. I 'Can Do Better' with all ten.

Posted by: jobforce | June 2, 2010 8:07 PM | Report abuse

Didn't know that voting from a cell-phone, like freedom, was just around the corner, DeBonis. The electronically enabled are errr, snail-mail disabled, so absentee voting won't get them to a USPS mailbox, no matter how often new Facebook friends remind them.

One formative political event in my life was working a polling place in NE during a/the Barry vs Schwartz election. I was filled with admiration for Hizzoner's getting out some of his vote, busloads of elderly women disembarking to exercise their franchise. That night we learned from precinct turn-out figures that Schwartz's likely voters -- enough to win the election for her -- remained in their Conn Ave NW apartments. Check the second half of my story with Plotkin. He probably remembers and can corroborate.

In short. Gray's just planting evidence he's not an old man, for those not informed enough to know he may be as sharp as Bill Clinton. The important not-yet-informed would be bloggers and young reporters.

Posted by: incredulous | June 3, 2010 1:05 AM | Report abuse

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