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SURFIN' SAFARI

Getting the pulse of America in real time

Exclusive: Andrea Shea King touts power of social media in politics

We’ve been writing here at Surfin’ Safari that social networking is the new media, bringing readers and users alike the ability to instantly communicate news. Nowhere is that more evident than in the political arena, where Twitter and Facebook dominate the Internet information highway, giving the traditional news media a run for their money.

More than 10 million Tweets were generated during last week’s presidential debate, making it the most tweeted-about event in U.S. politics, according to Adam Sharp (@adams), Twitter’s head of government, news and social innovation.

Sharpe wrote at Twitter’s blog that no matter where you are – at home or on the go – you are now able to see in real time how the rest of the country reacts to the presidential and vice presidential debates.

The newly launched twitter.com/#debates gave users access to the real time reactions of political pundits, journalists, campaign staffers, elected officials and voters to the candidates’ answers.

Just prior to last week’s 90-minute Romney/Obama presidential debate in Colorado, Sharp wrote: “Our team on the ground here in Denver will be tweeting out interesting data points that occur throughout the night. So keep an eye on @gov and we’ll see you tonight – on Twitter.”

During the debate, several trends emerged in 140-character tweets. The specific moments that generated the most discussion on Twitter were when moderator Jim Lehrer said, “Let’s not,” when Governor Romney requested a topic. And when President Obama quipped, “I had five seconds,” when Lehrer gave the time limit.

The discussion about Medicare and vouchers also garnered a significant amount of tweets (see chart below to view “pulse” of conversation throughout the debate).

“While @BarackObama and @MittRomney sparred over details of their respective economic plans, viewers at home attempted to keep up with the statistics and promises from each of them. Several Twitter accounts were dedicated to fact-checking throughout the evening, and fact-checking Tweets saw a great number of retweets,” Sharp reported.

Even the evening’s moderator Jim Lehrer of PBS was the subject of a parody account.

The next debate on the campaign trail will be this Thursday night, Oct. 11, in Danville, Ky., where @JoeBiden and @PaulRyanVP will face off in the vice presidential debate. Our suggestion? Monitor Twitter to get a read on the nation’s reaction.

An article at Fox News’ website summed it up: “Social media has democratized the commentary, giving voice to a far wider range of participants who can shape the narrative long before the candidates reach their closing statements.”

But monitoring Twitter, or even participating in the conversation with tweets of your own, isn’t the only use of this social medium.

Ryan Gill, vice president of Campaign to Defeat Obama, a political action committee that raises funds used to produce and air TV ads to support the Romney/Ryan ticket and underwrite the “Rebuild America – Defeat Obama” tour, explained how using social network sites like Facebook and Twitter helps the organization connect with its constituency (disclaimer: I am vice-chair of the CDBO PAC and am traveling with the tour as a speaker).

“Campaign to Defeat Obama has some core supporters on Twitter who clearly are also on our email list, regular visitors to our website, our Facebook fans and/or our loyal fans of our Twitter feed,” Gill said. “These folks have a bond with our brand even if all they get from us directly is a few words of thanks by direct message after many tweets of support.

“You can also see the trajectory of the popularity of content that we’re working to make viral by watching a search for that content. Take as examples this link and this link,” Gill said. “Combining strategies like these, we can find and promote people who promote us and our strategies, and we can identify and ally ourselves with people tweeting the topics and the points that represent our priorities.”

Related: Twitter’s road to an IPO.

Related: “Twitter takes advantage of the ‘micro-moments’ that exist in our lives.”

Are the Chinese spying on us?

Does the sun rise in the east?

A new congressional report that was expected to be released today has had Chinese telecom companies on guard. The report, expected to accuse two Chinese companies of posing a security threat to the United States, is the result of a yearlong investigation by the House Intelligence Committee.

According to a piece in The Hill, two Chinese companies – Huawei and ZTE – might be used to spy on Americans or sabotage our communications networks.

House panel chairman Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., has alluded that the report wouldn’t be favorable to the telecom giants.

“The report will explain why there may be reasons for concern,” Rogers was quoted as saying.

Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Md., the Intelligence Committee’s top Democrat, said at a hearing last month that he is concerned about the companies because China is “known to aggressively conduct cyber espionage.” He wondered whether China is subsidizing Huawei and ZTE so that the companies can offer “bargain basement prices to unsuspecting consumers.”

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