Social Media and the Conservative Movement – Part one of a series

As I looked to do some research for this article I found there isn’t any. It seems to me that no one is talking about Conservatives and social media in any substantive way.

I saw the first important use of social media in 2009 when the US House was set to talk about the “American Energy Act. The Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi decided that it was more important to adjourn on time and get her book tour started than to work on making America energy independent.  Republican members of the House then used Twitter to let us know what was going on in Washington and what some Republicans were talking about in the House Chambers even. (Since the House was not in session, no rules were violated)

This confrontation and the “broadcast” of it through social media started the #dontgo movement that later led to in important leaders in the Tea-Party movement. I saw the power and importance of what social media could be at that point. It was a way that any of us could circumvent the “gate-keepers” of mass media and get our message out to potentially millions of people. This seemed powerful. Although I first noticed it being used by Republicans I didn’t ( like most of you) didn’t see or comprehend what was in store for us in the next 10 years.

The explosion of FaceBook annihilated My Space and began to dominate the social media landscape. So much, in fact, there was a Christain conservative “push back” against it.  Pastors across the country were preaching against the evils of this social media “thing”. They warned of the danger it was doing to relationships. The warned of the danger it would do to our children. They even warned that criminals were spying on people to find the most convenient time to rob their homes.

Social media was packed full of pictures of food, funny cat videos, and people falling and hurting themselves. Oh and the rise of the selfie! Teens found FaceBook a great way to share with their friends pretty much anything that they were doing, or not doing. This teen activity effectively kept their parent on the sidelines. So when those that were involved in conservative political activism thought of technology they never really considered social media as a viable medium. This was the sin of short-sightedness.  So many of the consultant class were those sidelined parents and grandparents. Social Media for them was something kids did not serious adults.  Certainly not serious adults involved in serious multi-million dollar politics.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the ditch, hundreds of young people swept in with the election of Barrack Obama were organizing events through Facebook and Twitter. The size and effectiveness of these events were startling to the conservative consultant class. They acted as if it was some sort of witchcraft. The fact of the matter they were getting beaten by a bunch of 19-year-olds.  But even as younger conservatives were rising up, the doors to the consultant class were bolted shut. It was still very difficult if not impossible to get anyone to listen to the importance of Facebook, Facebook ads, Twitter, Twitter ads, Youtube or podcasts.  The most technological innovation of the consultant class was still a “vibrant” email campaign.  Buying airtime on radio and television were still at the forefront of most strategies.  Even though people like Ned Ryun were developing tools to micro-target voters, the consultant class was ignoring the ability of Facebook to do the same on its advertising platform.

As social media grew, the left saw the potential to get the attention of a constituency.  Liberal causes joined social media and started using it as a platform to share not just events, but agenda. Well crafted posts as well as reposts of articles backing their agenda soon flooded social media.  They had opened a front in the pop-culture war. a front that was completely undefended.

We are even now scrambling to defend that front. What we didn’t realize was the owners of the main social media tools are allies of the left. All the time spent ignoring social media should have been spent creating a conservative social media platform. And now, it may be too late.