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Minnesota GOP must learn social media is a two-way street

Minnesota GOP must learn social media is a two-street street
If 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.

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. Bapna says the goals are the same for a political campaign or a cereal company.

“The challenge is to truly understand who these people are.  It’s not about whether you are signed up as a Republican or registered as Democrat,” Bapna said. “It’s a finer level of familiarity. I may be a liberal but I do care about abortion or I may be conservative but I am socially liberal.”

In forums where Minnesota Republicans have gathered to identify ways to move the party forward, participants nodded in agreement at the importance of social media, but they defined it as a tactic, a digital megaphone, not a tool for developing strategy. Just a few more tweets, and we would have won two more seats, seemed to be their conclusion. 

But at SOBACO and at consulting companies that specialize in digital marketing, learning how to use social media doesn’t start with establishing a Twitter account.

Bapna believes that social media is predictive, that it gives the data-miner insight into the fundamentals of human behavior.

“Are you altruistic? Are you visually-oriented? The smarter organization learns about these people,” before it starts selling, he said. “Social media really should be a very important data point that goes into your product funnel.”

Out of kilter

Social listening is the key to finding out which part of the product is out of kilter, according to Bapna. “I think a politician or a party would be well served if they had this ability to get this sense,” he said.

Then, he counsels, the next step is to use the network in a targeted way: finding who is connected to whom, finding the influencers, and getting the voter engaged. 

This is the social graph that Republicans needed to overlay on their voter lists. This is their weakness in using social media.

When the party does decide to improve its social media skills, they will find it’s a two-way street. They will learn they need to listen before they talk.

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Comments (13)

Smoke and mirrors

"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."

No, no, and no.

What happened was enough voters pulled back the curtain and discovered that the GOP message of smaller government and fiscal responsibility was just a bunch of smoke and mirrors.

But Cindy's half right, there was also a GOP message of exclusion that alienated a hell of a lot of minorities and women.

"...smoke and mirrors."

Agreed. It can be argued (and I have!) that never has there been a 2 year session filled with as much bad behavior by one party as there was beginning in 2011 with the "new! and improved!!!" GOP in charge. They took over in January 2011 and before the month was out Citizens were presented with The Newman Scandal - and the train wreck was on.

If there's any solace for the GOP, it's that after two years of misbehavior, they actually managed to keep things close. While the DFL seemingly won every close election, with that two year track record of misbehavior it shouldn't have been close.


This isn't a "branding" issue, the ideology itself is fundamentally flawed and increasingly unpopular. The behavior of your candidates continues to be obnoxious, who actually CHEERED when the sequester became inevitable while trying to claim it was someone elses idea? Three guesses.

By the way....

Apparently none of your branding experts have told you the more Republicans talk about "data mining" and the need for more research the more they expose the fact that contrary to the claims of a just a year ago... they are hopelessly out of touch with the electorate. You can't outsource human contact and community awareness. You're not running products for office, your running candidates.

Social media will never work

Social media will never work for the GOP for one reason: It is a top-down institution; all the strings are pulled by putocrats. The best the party can do is fool voters into believing it cares about anything but cutting taxes on the wealthy and freeing the reigns on corporations.

When my 90 year old mother a pretty faithful GOP support

was mad at the two amendments and took it with her to the polls you know it was a bad strategy.

A familiar story

I have heard the same story in various forms for half a century. The losing party says: nothing is wrong with our message, we just did not convey it properly. What is true is that people hear the message, they just are not buying it. What happened in 2012 was caused by a massive turnout by the Obama political machine, so Democrats won decisively. What people forget is that just two years prior Republicans in the off-year election won massively. Did voters change their political beliefs in just two years? Let us see what happens in 2014 and 2016.

Rejecting reality

perhaps the most indicative issue revealed in the last election was the rejection of polling results that went opposite to Republican desires.

You can "make your own reality" with respect to long-range problems like climate change when nothing overwhelmingly definitive will happen in the near future, but when the real reality will be evident in a couple of days it is just shouts "Delusion !".

Delusion shows up quite quickly in the rapid-fire of social media.

Everybody's the expert.

Everybody's the expert. #eyeroll


Do you object in a substantive way to what's been said in these comments? Or do you just not like hearing the truth? #GoingWithTheLatter

Still chasing the reason for

Still chasing the reason for the loss? You don't need gimmicks......just open up the precinct caucuses, then let everyone speak, and let an array of people be delegates. Years ago you weeded out everyone who wasn't a middle aged man of privilege toeing the party line and there are no longer enough of them to make you a winner. Look what Republicans did to Hagel because he didn't toe the party line that Israel can do no wrong. In MN the amendments would have been non-starters if you had opened up your caucuses. Then get out of bed with the church. That was a Roe tactic that now is no longer working for you. Then for those elected, represent all of your district. Rep Kline especially needs to learn this. He toes the party line even on issues that the vast majority of his district does not agree with.

I Repeat

Any changes made by the GOP will have the same effect as rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. They will play word games, semantic changes, to make you think they have made changes, but in reality there won't be any real changes. Their war on women, minorities, and common sense will continue. The fractured zealot leadership will continue. Because they are lost in the political wilderness the only way they will be able to protect themselves is by intransigence and the continued use of the word NO. Lack of compromise will continue. It will be interesting to see if they are willing to lose another election due to their inability to make meaningful changes.

It isn't a pretty picture

If the Republicans want to learn they first have to listen, which is not their strong suit. Good luck getting the Republican leaders to listen. Their core leadership of Limbaugh, Beck, Hannity, Bachmann, McConnell, McCain, Boehner, Canter, Koch brothers, Adelson, etc, etc, are not known for listening. They all talk in terms of speaking for the voters, but they keep losing elections, so I guess speaking for the voters isn't true. Fiscal conservative is a total misnomer. Enter George W. Bush's spending extravaganza they all supported, but they didn't pay for. They can't name themselves; the voters will do that for them. They ran Romney for president, lost, he sent his son forth to proclaim he didn't really want the job, and now he wishes he was in the White house. It isn't a pretty picture for the Republicans and it won't be for a long time.