As we continue to look at the use of social media in national politics, attention should also be given to how social media has been used in local or small-town politics.
While a citizen might look to an official CNN Twitter account for national news, that same person might also look at a local reporter's Twitter account for news more relevant to their community.
Martin Austermuhle, senior editor of DCist.com, a hyper-local DC blog, recently wrote about his participation at a conference on new media and elections:
I argued that while things might be changing, participation and preference in the District are still moved primarily by traditional associations like church groups, civic organizations, etc. As for the April 26 Special Election, well, for all the noise we tried to make on Twitter (including a dedicated hashtag, #four26dc), turnout was pretty much what would have been expected for a special election.
It will be interesting to look at how local politicians use social media outlets versus those running for higher offices in the upcoming 2012 election.
In the 2010 Mayoral race in Washington D.C. it was largely said that the “Old-Washington” candidate Vincent Gray was beating the younger incumbent Mayor Adrian Fenty in the use of social media. While this helped Gray’s image it, I believe even he would say it only helped a little in helping him win the election.
Local journalists like Mike DeBonis or Alan Suderman are great local reporters, but as Austermuhle points out, their social media efforts do not necessarily persuade the long-standing organizations that a local politician needs in order to win a general election.
For instance, Jon Huntsman just announced his candidacy for president via Twitter with a live video stream on his new website. I doubt a small-town mayor would be able to do the same with limited resources.
Yet, social media is the place to look as even Arianna Huffington wrote about the importance of local journalists as a reason for her merger with AOL, “AOL's Patch.com covers 800 towns across America, providing an incredible infrastructure for citizen journalism in time for the 2012 election.”