Wanted: Social Media Consultant for Annise Parker's Campaign
Editor's Note: The following article has been updated to clarify a statement made in the original. To clarify, Julie Pippert is not a member of Annise Parker's campaign
Numbers don't lie, indeed, and for an event that was expected to serve as a "briefing and release of campaign financials," those digits couldn't be sweeter to share. With 2,250 donors (and counting) kicking in over $800,000 in support -- and over $300,00 of that raised via online donations alone -- the Parker campaign has every reason to paddle naked down the bayou, waving the Texas flag with glee. Of that amount, a mere 291 folks contributed a whopping $43,000 just 48 hours before the June 30th fundraising deadline. And really, almost 6,000 Facebook supporters and over 1,100 Twitter followers can't be wrong! Looks like the sunny days are sweepin' the clouds away for Annise Parker's bid for the Mayor's office.
But as demonstrated by the Obama campaign, the shift in organizing and growing a fanbase via new media was never about pure statistics. The Obama camp's relationships with the constituents rang true (and successful) for Renegade on Election Day. Numbers, numbers, numbers aside, there's a little trouble in social media paradise for the Parker effort. "When you have grassroots support, you can stand on principle," according to campaign consultant Grant Martin, who also ran San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom's recent re-election operation. He also claimed that Parker's campaigns over the years have "worked very hard to make a place for all people to play a part in the campaign." Noble and honorable, for certain. Yet although "grassroots is a thing we really want to do," it appears that the "social" part of a social media-driven crusade needs a pulse checking. The phrases "scary," "letting go of a method," and "allowing yourself to give in to other people" seemed to convey a freaked-out novice vibe amongst the campaign team. Even experienced blogger Julie Pippert noted, "Twitter's not a chat format; it's a headline feed." Yikes. Not if you're using it right, it isn't.
While "Facebook has the most measurable results," said Martin, some Parker supporters feel like exactly that - like mere numbers. Gil Velasquez, an avid Parker supporter and former Mayor's Office of Special Events employee, looked forward to Parker's entry into the race for her "no-nonsense, fiscal responsibility." But he admitted that his "e-heart was broken" when "every direct message and reply on Twitter fell on deaf Internet ears." In fact, the only responses Velasquez ever received from the campaign were "the constant hounding to work the phones." Martin himself acknowledged that responding in a timely fashion via social media is "a challenge, and the campaign is still trying to figure out the logistics."
Dear Annise Parker's Campaign Team: Don't blow this one. You've got the numbers, now do the legwork. Hurry up and hire a few 22 year-old interns for free bagels and the opportunity to slap political campaign experience on their pitiful, post-collegiate resumes. Then get to connecting with those eager would-be supporters in the social web. If you're really following Obama's Holy Grail of Social Media for Getting Elected, there's only one thing to remember: Numbers don't vote; people do.