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Breaking Down the Walls: Social Media at Presidential Conventions

by Jane Susskind, published
2,286 delegates and 2,125 alternate delegates from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and five U.S. territories will gather in Tampa, Florida on August 27-30. Credit: 2012 Republican National Convention Official Site

What used to be exclusively for political insiders, national conventions are now just a click away, thanks to the technological advances in social media networks. Both Democrats and Republicans will break down walls by embracing tools such as YouTube, Facebook, and Google Hangouts, just some of the social media at presidential conventions this election cycle.

At this week's convention, the Republican Party's "Convention without Walls" aims to bring the Republican National Convention to viewers all around the world, through the advanced use of technology and social media. It's no secret that social media is transforming the way in which we interact with politics, and the RNC is just one example of the social aspects inevitably involved in political events.

The deservingly accurate theme of "Convention without Walls" materializes in the Republican Party's efforts to engage on a wide variety of social networks. No longer are conventions closed events, available only to those attending, but the doors have opened to virtually include anyone with Internet access. When it comes to social networks, they've got their bases covered, with social profiles set up on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+, and even a mobile app.

The Republican Party has already made a commanding presence on social networks, drawing the attention of politicians, journalists, and voters nationwide. Their Facebook Page already has close to 9,000 likes, with their Twitter boasting 13,217 followers.

Speeches will be streamed live not only by the RNC, but by major cable news networks like ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox News Channel, PBS, and C-Span, available online.

Jonathan Torres, Director of Digital Integration, adds, "We are also going to share the experience that the delegates are having here, at the convention, with everyone that's following us across our social media networks. It's going to be the most engaging and most open convention anyone has ever seen."

As we noted before, YouTube will be the main focus of the RNC, their channel already hosting around 22 videos, 317 subscribers, and almost 30,000 video views. This year also showcases the rise of Google+, with the RNC hosting Google Hangouts, along with major news organizations like NBC hosting hangouts with their correspondents.

Here's a run-down of what's in store, socially, for this week's convention in Tampa:

Not only will technology transforms the convention experience for viewers at home, it will enhance the experience for those attending in Tampa. With 13 gigantic LED screens "with a high pixels count", attendees have a lot to look forward to next week.

But Republican's aren't the only ones staying connected socially. Democrats, who hold their convention one week after the Republican Party, have already built a substantial following on Facebook, with 23,157 users tuning in to their updates, photos, and videos. For the first time ever, caucus meetings will be live-streamed on the Internet, allowing those online access to discussions in real-time.

And it's not just the timing that matters. The nature of social media allows politicians and parties to tailor their messages, highlighting themes they feel are important. As opposed to traditional modes of reporting, politicians now control the media they send to their base. Jeffrey Collins and Tamara Lush of AP write:

Social media is increasingly allowing parties to control their message — and spreading those key messages through an online network of "friends" may allow them to create a sense of credibility, Kreiss said. It will be "viewed as more credible and more authentic" than less-personal media coverage.
Both parties have released mobile apps to further enhance coverage of social media at presidential conventions for viewers at home, which you can read about on IVN's social media blog:

Navigating the Democratic National Convention via Mobile App

Republican National Convention App to Include Google Hangouts

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