Newspaper article

Minnesota GOP Must Learn Social Media Is a Two-Way Street

Newspaper article

Minnesota GOP Must Learn Social Media Is a Two-Way Street

Article excerpt

A friend of mine, an occasional Republican, was amused by laments from Minnesota Republican activists that the GOP lost the November elections because the party failed to connect with voters via social media. "That's like saying there was static on the line, so all they need to do is change the color of the telephone," he said.

What many Republicans fail to grasp is that, during the 2012 election cycle, their message of smaller government and fiscal responsibility was eclipsed by a message of exclusion. In Minnesota, the marriage and voter ID amendments, coupled with ill-timed national comments about "legitimate" rape, indicated that, far from wanting to connect, the Republican Party wanted to shut out certain groups of voters.

In other words, Mark Zuckerberg himself could not have created a social media strategy that would have helped Republicans last November.

If, however, Republicans had approached social media and data mining the way many businesses do today, they might have learned that connecting on line goes both ways. If Republicans had held that virtual conversation, they would have learned a thing or two about the mood of the voters they wanted to attract.

"What we have in the social media phenomena is hundreds of millions of people of interest to political parties, people who are doing what they like to do in an online locale - expressing what they care about, what issues matter to them," said Ravi Bapna, director of the University of Minnesota's Social Media and Business Analytics Collaborative (SOBACO), a new program that crosses multiple disciplines.

Data mining

Business people enroll in SOBACO's executive program to learn not just how to push their message or brand or product to an online audience. First, they learn how to pull -- to find out what their audience is thinking and saying. Call it data-mining 101.

In the SOBACO program, students learn how to use social media, in all its permutations, as a giant sandbox where insight into consumer - or voter - preferences is there for the sifting. …

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