In what ways have politicians used the Internet in campaigning and in staying in touch with constituents?


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Connor Sephton Profile
Connor Sephton answered
Politicians, such as American President Barack Obama, routinely use the Internet to campaign and stay in touch with their constituents.

Often, exciting and practical social networking applications, such as Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter, are used to post regular status updates, and to respond to comments and inquiries from the masses. Currently, Twitter is the fastest-growing platform for politicians to communicate with voters, before, during and after elections.

  • Social networks
Politicians may also use public relations teams and personal assistants to relate relevant information about their political platforms and goals, through their namesake Twitter accounts. In some cases, a politician may also post pictures, video, and longer commentary on their Facebook page.

In many ways, this sort of immediacy has contributed to a closer connection between politicians and their constituents. In fact, web platforms such as Twitter may be viewed as revolutionary "equalizers" that allow celebrity politicians to relate to their "fans" or detractors as equals.

Sarah Palin runs a popular Twitter account that is also a lightning rod for controversy. She regularly posts opinions and chastises President Barack Obama when she disagrees with his political choices.

Although Sarah Palin receives an enormous amount of "hate mail" through "virtual" channels, she is also able to connect with her grass-roots fan base via Twitter; she also uses a Facebook page to present more in-depth responses to criticism. Her pages are used to promote a potential bid for Presidency, as well as her other commercial interests, such as her book and TV programs.

Some old-school politicians may eschew the use of social media to relate to the public; however, in time, most will come around and create accounts, simply due to public demand for their presence in the social networking arena.

These valuable new tools provide free PR to politicians as they pursue their agendas and move forward. The negative aspects of being in the public eye via Twitter are really not any different than the adverse publicity politicians often receive through other forms of media, such as TV, radio, and newspapers.
Ben Donahower Profile
Ben Donahower answered
For more in depth information about how an elected official communicates with their constituents this guide by Wellstone Action is a good primer: In the meantime:
  • Sending emails to constituents who are interested in particular issues or general information
  • Building a community on social networking sites, answering questions, sharing information
  • Promoting and organizing events on their website, social networking sites, or third party applications like plancast and evenbrite
  • Monitoring social networking sites for issues that the elected official can help constituents with
  • Raising money on the campaign website
  • Etc

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