Gray outguns Fenty in the social media battle
Mayor 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.
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."
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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