It's not just about the power of big money this November. Facebook, Twitter, and other social media tools are giving the electorate a competitive voice this election cycle, says Mark McKinnon.
Six words transmitted wirelessly late in the evening of Nov. 7, 2000, foretold an event that forever changed American politics. Campaign manager Donna Brazile sent Al Gore a message on his BlackBerry 850, still relatively new technology that the Bush campaign did not have. That message: “Never surrender. It’s not over yet.”
Those six words, sent on a hunch, were later followed by an email from the campaign team with more specific information on the Florida vote count. The presidential nominee of the Democratic Party then withheld his official concession, and the election of 2000 entered the history books as the most contentious yet in modern times. As the chief media advisor for George W. Bush’s campaign, I don’t think I can ever forget the impact of those six words.
Though Gore was an early adopter of technology, even he could not foresee the impact of social media on politics today. Back then, the BlackBerry was little more than a two-way pager with a keyboard. Only 54 million U.S. households had a computer; just 44 million had online access. And the words tweet, friend, and follow had altogether different meanings: Facebook was not introduced until 2004, YouTube, 2005, and Twitter, 2006.
Fast forward to today, and we are all connected—all the time. In the United States, there are around 250 million Internet users, over 100 million smartphone users, 133 million Facebook users and over 24 million Twitter users.