Politics has changed significantly in the past few years – not so much the political process itself, but the way the average citizen gets to observe and, more importantly, participate. Social media has quickly become a fundamental part of many people’s lives and even more crucial for politics. Elections are made or broken by candidates’ presence online, and one Pew Research study showed, for example, that Facebook users are much more likely to be politically active.
But Twitter is where the real action happens. Because it’s so simple and so easy to reach a wide audience, it’s the perfect tool for political news and analysis. It’s one of the few social channels conservatives took advantage of early on – now it’s one of the most robust and significant networks conservatives can use to connect, get their news, and discuss.
But are we relying too much on Twitter? What’s the next step? What happens when Twitter goes out of style, or when Twitter decides it doesn’t like us righties anymore? (I’m not one for conspiracy theories, but there have been a few incidents that made people question Twitter.) Do we have a plan B?
Here are a few options:
Facebook: Plenty of conservatives, myself included, are already using Facebook for political purposes. But there are, in my opinion, too many drawbacks that prevent Facebook from being as effective as Twitter: the friend request process is often uncomfortable for networking with folks you don’t know personally; your personal, face-to-face friends and family who don’t share your political views are hard to avoid; and the missing retweet capabilities.
Google+: Quite a few politicos and politicians, most notably Newt Gingrich, who has held group video chats with other Google+ users, have taken advantage of it early on, but since it’s still a relatively lonely social network, it’s hard to gauge it for the moment. Until it becomes easier to integrate with Facebook and Twitter, I’m betting few people have the time or inclination to make the transition.
iRepublican: iRepublican is a brand new social network specifically for Republicans. It’s more of a platform for sharing longer posts like a blog than what we think of as a social network, and has a few kinks to be worked out, but it definitely has potential. Also, it’s currently invite-only, which should keep the lefties out. (If anyone’s interested, comment here with your email address or shoot me an email and I’ll invite you.)
Something else? “As far as where the conversations will take place in the future, there’s no way to tell,” said Raz Shafer, Texas State Director for American Majority, an organization that trains citizens to get involved in politics, including through the use of social media. There are too many unknown factors to tell where conservatives will float next, if we ever abandon Twitter.
Perhaps what’s more important than where the discussion is happening is that it’s happening at all. “What I can tell you, though,” Shafer continued, “is that wherever politics can be discussed online, we need to have conservatives being represented and making their presence known. We can’t cede an inch of ideological battlefield.”
I wholeheartedly agree.