Connected candidates: Beyond Twitter

Most political candidates are on Twitter and Facebook – using these social media tools to reach out to younger voters, and instantly communicate with supporters, the public and the media.

I’ve written previously about how political candidates can use social networking tools like Twitter and Facebook, Google Apps and how campaigns have made use of mobile technology like SMS and iphone apps.

Lisa Johnston, Democrat candidate for Kansas Senator has put her Foursquare profile on her web page.

Now, iphone-enabled Democratic candidate Patrick Kennedy is using new social media tool Foursquare to let voters know his location.

Foursquare is a free iphone app (available on Android phones also) that lets you update your friends about your location. It’s designed to help friends meet up if they are nearby, such as at a cafe or bar. It can link into Twitter as well.

It is a little “weird” that people can follow a candidate’s every move, Kennedy admits. But he said it makes him stay active. “If I say I am going to be out there representing people this holds me to account. I can’t hide with this tool.” Kennedy said he was recently contacted by someone who saw he had checked in down the road and wanted to know why the candidate did not stop by his group. A visit was quickly arranged.

This example shows the potential usefulness of Foursquare, as it focuses in on one of the applications of Twitter for candidates: letting local constituents and media know about your attendance at community events. Candidates could easily use Foursquare like Kennedy has: to link in with locals, and promote their activities. Opportunities to get local media also arise, as local journalists can link in to the candidate’s activities (sometimes the sheer fact that the candidate is using social media is newsworthy).

Key to this social media tool is the smart phone – an iphone, android phone or Blackberry. Political candidates and their key campaign staff should all have smart phones of some kind that can easily update a variety of social media sites – Twitter, Facebook and others like Foursquare. There should also be the ability to take photos and videos.

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