This evening, my 14-year old step daughter was looking at the Twitter app on her iPhone and reading off trending topics. After just a few were mentioned, like #DescribeYourExUsingOnlyAMovieTitle, #CBO (McDonalds new sandwich), #HurricaneSandy and #CloudAtlas, it became crystal clear that the real conversations…the one happening between actual human beings across the social landscape aren’t what we would expect.
That landscape is becoming more and more the world’s conversation and has little to do with what ‘The Man’ would want us talk about. When I asked her what all of those trending topics signify, she very quickly and confidently replied, “We’re creating the topics now, not the people who are running the show.” She’s right.
She may be a teen, but social conversations on Twitter and elsewhere cross all ages, cultures, genders, and nationalities. It is ironic that she knows more about what’s really being said than the pollsters trying to figure out this election. A teen is more connected to what matters to people than highly paid political consultants.
I immediately think of what’s being said in our U.S. election. While Romney and Obama bombard the American republic with messages, I have to wonder how long this will be considered an effective way to campaign for office. Trying to start the conversation with phone calls and television advertisements is very old-school in a world where Gangnam Style can capture remarkable attention and there are so many topics that people actually care about.
Will this be the last un-social presidential election? With Obama hoping for a strong turnout from the youth that supported him last time, has he engaged them on social media? What about the millions of new voters who spent their teen years using social media and will vote for a president for the first time? Has either candidate taken advantage of that? Simply creating a twitter account and tweeting your message isn’t the same as creating or joining a conversation.
Political types have a lot to learn.
As my 16-year-old step son says brilliantly, “They’re spending billions of dollars on outdated communication techniques. It is a very inefficient way to reach the millions that are found on social media.” He’s also right.