Joe Trippi, senior advisor to the John Edwards presidential campaign, and Cyrus Krohn, the director of the eCampaign division of the Republican National Committee, both spoke of how social networking has changed the face of politics on a panel at ExecutiveBiz's The New New Internet conference here.
"It's going to overthrow the current structure [of politics]," Trippi said of the impact of the Web, social networking, and social media. Krohn concurred, saying, "The floodgates have been opened--it's going to change politics forever."
While the "first Internet President" has yet to be elected--and the Internet may not be the deciding factor in the 2008 election--it's clear to senior people within several campaigns that social networking is the only way for them to reach a segment of the population that politicians have generally ignored in the past.
"More than half of people under 30 don't have landline phones," said John Della Volpe, the director of polling for the Harvard Institute of Politics, who joined Krohn and Trippi on the panel. "Most campaigns go after seniors. But more people under 30 voted in the last election than people over 65."
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Both Trippi and Krohn heavily use Web 2.0 technologies to reach supporters of their causes. Krohn, in fact, told the audience that he was "Twittering" the whole conference, and uses Twitter to communicate with a large number of what he referred to as "Generation M" voters--voters under 30.
"[In] our MySpace group, the average user is under 25," said Krohn. He said that the RNC has turned to social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace to help get the word out to younger supporters. "The medium has gone wild," he said. "It can be exciting, but it can also be intimidating."
One of the side effects of sites like eBay and MySpace, said Trippi, is that "Americans have faith in strangers again--something that was wiped out by big media." While television news broadcasts "show murders every night," he said, the nature of Web 2.0 builds communities of trust.