Is social media pointless in local elections? Definitely in Dallas

Since starting my internship at CBSDFW.com, I’ve been quickly thrust into the world of local elections and social media. In that time, it’s become increasingly obvious to me how little social media effects both the voter turnout and the excitement in Dallas-area elections. I say this for two reasons: First, people in Dallas don’t care enough to vote, much less follow people on Twitter. Second, DFW’s politicians have proven themselves woefully inadequate at sustaining a following.

Today, CBS published a piece I’ve been working on for a few days. It addresses how social media affected voter turnout in the Dallas mayor race runoff that happened last week. Long story short: It didn’t. Sarah Dodd, David Kunkle’s wife/campaign manager, said that they tried to use social media to attract “non-traditional voters” (i.e. young people), but that it failed. Rawlings straight up admitted it wasn’t even really a focus of his campaign.

So what’s the deal here? Well, first of all, as SMU political science professor Cal Jillson points out, the people who vote in Dallas don’t use social media. And the people that use social media in Dallas don’t vote.

Who votes? The rich, old, white folk in North Dallas and older minorities in South Dallas, which Jillson points out is not exactly the target of social media these days. In any case, young people are notably absent from Dallas-area polling places.

Read my article for the rest.

But what about the second part? The majority of Dallas’ politicians don’t have a social media presence at all. Maybe it’s because they are discouraged because of the lack of real response, but I would be money on it being because they just don’t know how to have an active social media personality.

Kunkle, admittedly, didn’t run his own Facebook or Twitter, and Rawling’s said he’ll continue reaching out to his constituents through the convenient platform, but he was so unsuccessful at running his social media that he only garnered about half the followers of Kunkle.

Betsey Price, the new mayor of Fort Worth, only tweets about every three days, and when she does she doesn’t say anything significant. Thanking Fort Worth and talking about how you visited an antique mall is not a good use of Twitter. What is a good use of Twitter is starting conversation and saying significant things that will merit retweeting. Oh, and you should probably keep your Twitters current. Neither Price nor Rawlings has updated their profiles to say they have been elected mayor – both say that they are still running.

But is having a Facebook page or a Twitter page even worth it if the audience those resources commonly reach ignore elections in the first place? Probably not.

Social media is a great tool for getting people involved and allowing them quick access to your campaign so they feel included, but in order to get them to be involved in that page, you have to get them excited about you first.

Dallas-area candidates could do much more to actually excite the youth population. Community colleges are full of people who are actually registered to vote in Dallas, these would be great places to energize the youth through conferences, rallies and meetings. Candidates have years of experience in city government, so why not guest lecture a political science class? The possibilities are endless.

So, when candidates say their social media pages weren’t effective because the youth aren’t interested in the election, they only have themselves to blame.

Posted by on June 28, 2011. Filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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