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August 5, 2009

Social Media Scorecard: Candidates for Governor of Tennessee

The proof of the pudding is in the election night results, but regardless, it's fun to analyze campaigns from the proverbial armchair (or, heck, recliner) using silly filters, like "how well Campaign X uses new media/social media."

I had planned a serious post on this subject, but I didn't want to come across as some kind of "social media expert." After all, I am only on the social internets as some sort of grand, twisted experiment. Therefore, take the below rankings with a few grains of salt.

The Bill Gibbons campaign currently holds the lead, as it launched its own proprietary social media site, the Gibbons Grassroots Network, at midnight last night, and back-announced it on Facebook this morning.

A prior runner-up who has since faltered a bit is Joe Kirkpatrick. He personally comments on blogs, and is active on the major social networks, but then he wiped out with some questionable comments made to a renowned and respected blogger via e-mail. There's still a chance for Joe to make a comeback, given his early strong showing.

Taking over the second-place spot is U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp, whose Twitter updates seem personal and genuine, even as they may be written by a hack. (I don't know; do you? That said, he has twittered from the House floor—during a State of the Union Address.) On Facebook, Wamp has a robust group and a page (broken as of this writing, but it seems to be Facebook's fault).

The bronze goes to Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey. Whoever runs his Twitter account seems to "get" the medium. Placing Wamp and Ramsey is actually a bit of a toss-up, rather like that Davidson County straw poll.

Honorable mention goes to Mike McWherter, whose Facebook operation seems strong. Big fail for not using Twitter.

But an epic fail goes to McWherter's chief Democratic rival, Sen. Roy Herron, whose website advertises a Twitter account—but that user has a whopping zero updates. The one Twitter user he is following, ActBlue, tells me that the account itself may be an ActBlue creation. Your guess is as good as mine.

Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam has slowed down a bit on Twitter, and his Facebook group is under attack (albeit a fairly mild one) by a troll.

Biggest disappointment so far: the Ward Cammack campaign, who started using social media to great effect, but then it all went away. Or maybe that was just Mark Brown.

Several of the other candidates have nominal presences on the popular sites, but don't seem to be reaching me with them. And I watch for this stuff. Are they reaching you, the TennesseeTicket reader? The general public?

As I stated above, this sort of handicapping means very little in the end. If I had to guess, I'd say that traditional campaign methods will yet again determine the eventual winner. And it's early yet. But thanks for indulging me; and if this post in any way helps a campaign rethink its efforts to "engage the engaged," then it will have been worth our time.

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TN Gubernatorial Elections , Tech | By joe lance | 11:21 PM


Great observations. I tuned in the other night to see what the Gibbons project was all about. Using a Ning-based platform for his web site seems like a smart idea for a candidate.

Kirkpatrick's "strategy" has been interesting to watch to say the least.

I admit to being surprised that the Democratic candidates seem to be lagging in how they adopt and adapt with social media. Tools like Twitter and Facebook will never replace other campaign tools, but they are new tools worth incorporating into a strategist's toolbox.

As a co-blogger at No Silence Here, I'm following the Knoxville city council races this summer to see how, if at all, social media is playing a role in local elections. Given that so many of the tools available are free, I remain surprised that more candidates don't try to make (better) use of these tools for improving fundraising, volunteer recruitment, and message distribution.

Posted by: Shane Rhyne at August 6, 2009 8:00 AM

You forget to mention Kim McMillan. She's an active facebook, blogger and twitterer . . .

Not that that means anything in terms of attracting voters. This all seems to me a distraction from real issues.

Posted by: The OG Ben at August 7, 2009 10:05 AM

Thank you for your comment.

No, I did not mention Kim McMillan by name, but was thinking of her specifically when I wrote this: Several of the other candidates have nominal presences on the popular sites, but don't seem to be reaching me with them.

And as to the "distraction" part: I fully acknowledged that a couple of times in the post. It amazes me that when I write about the real issues, I get very little response; when I do a much more "fluff" centered post as this, I get linked, re-tweeted, etc. a lot more.

That said, a couple of people have stated the opinion that social media, while not everything, will be a very important part of candidate-to-voter outreach in the 2010 cycle, and a discussion of the real issues is dependent on that initial connection having taken place.

Thanks again.

Posted by: joe lance at August 7, 2009 10:13 AM

Could you email me the date of the piece on which you graded me as the actual runner-up? Many thanks for that and for the mentions.

With my terse reply to the knoxviews post, I was simply drawing a line in the sand. I was suggesting that even if an article claims I said something at a local event, please verify its accuracy before attempting to smear me.

Out of context is bad enough, but out of context relative to something I didn't even say doesn't even qualify as journalism.

Both to the blogger and the original source of the story, credit is due for their voluntary retractions.

Posted by: Joe Kirkpatrick at August 11, 2009 2:39 PM

The person I vote for in 2010 is the one who will do something about all the corruption involving Children's Services in Tennessee. I have heard too many horror stories about them and have had a few friends falsely accused by them. There is no checks and balances and a lot of what they do is above the law.

Posted by: Suzie C. at August 14, 2009 11:18 AM

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