Macaca Moments

YouTube made its mark in political campaigns in 2006 with then-Sen. George Allen’s “macaca” comment, which contributed to the Virginia Republican’s eventual defeat.

The widely dispersed ability to record audio or video and post it to the web may have a powerful effect this year, too. And having cited the most famous Republican example, here for your bipartisan edification are a couple of instances from the Democratic side.

  • The Democratic nomination contest may have been extended by reaction to audio captured at a San Francisco fundraiser, in which Sen. Barack Obama explains Pennsylvanians’ affinity for guns and religion as the fruit of bitterness about job losses. (Scroll to the bottom to hear the audio on the Huffington Post.) The resulting controversy undoubtedly slowed Sen. Obama’s momentum and likely had something to do with Sen. Clinton’s winning streak in the later primaries. Who knows whether it might make a difference in battleground states like Pennsylvania and Ohio?
  • Most recently, former Democratic National Committee Chair Don Fowler was captured on tape as he was returning from his party’s convention in Denver. Fowler was seen expressing delight that Hurricane Gustav was going to hit during the Republican convention, interpreting it as a sign of Divine approval of the Democrats.


Here’s his “I’m sorry if I offended anyone” apology.

The lesson for politicians — and for all of us — is that a “private conversation” is an exceedingly rare event…particularly on a commercial airline.

Contrary to George Orwell’s prediction in 1984, in 2008 the threat to privacy is not a “Big Brother” government (or Bush administration wiretaps.)

Tens of millions of cell phones with video capabilities, as well as easy-to-use video cameras like the Flip, mean that almost anything you say or do could be captured and made available on the Web. But don’t blame a nefarious government plot; it will most likely be an ordinary citizen recording and uploading it.

Who has another example? Where have you seen embarrassing audio and video captured and posted to the Web?

Share your examples in the comments, and I’ll update this post with other “Macaca Moments.”

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Social Media 302: Barack Obama’s Social Media Strategy

In Social Media 301, we examined the McCain campaign’s use of the Web, and invited an associate professor to provide a similar analysis for the Obama campaign. Scott Meis, a SMUGgle from Chicago, has risen to the challenge with Analyzing Barack Obama’s Social Media Strategy. Here’s an excerpt:

Visit any of Obama’s networking tools and you’ll find a donation widget. He’s engaging target audiences on their own turf and using these tools and platforms to motivate others to donate and help drive others back to his website. All these tools are serving as key extensions of interaction and user involvement but centered around a clear call to action. It really is brilliant. You see a great video on YouTube that inspires you to participate, whamo, the donate button is a simple click away.

One could definitely argue that Obama is just trying to see what sticks, but let’s remember, this is the presidential election. Technically, his audience is everyone. The Washington Post has even gone so far as to title Obama as the “King of Social Networking.”

Check out the rest of Scott’s analysis on his Social Media Snippets blog.

Social Media 301: GOP and McCain Use of Web

No campaign has used the Web as effectively as Barack Obama’s has, as his record-setting fundraising totals testify. He’s the second-most popular person on Facebook, after Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps. I have invited any SMUGgle with first-hand experience of the Obama on-line campaign (and who got the early-morning text message last Saturday about the Biden selection as the VP candidate) to become an Associate Professor and write a post analyzing its strengths (and whatever weaknesses they may see.) A couple of people have expressed interest, although neither has yet submitted a post. Hopefully we’ll have something fairly soon.

Meanwhile, because my political leanings are conservative and because I worked in campaigns and government on the Republican side for 14 years prior to a career change, I’m doing this post examining the McCain campaign and its use of the Web.

As of this writing, Sen. McCain trails Sen. Obama by 1,236,581 “supporters” on Facebook, although I think there has been something of an uptick in support for McCain since he named Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate.

The GOP candidate recently launched a redesigned McCainSpace, which Erick at TechCrunch reviewed with a jab at the candidate’s superannuation. He also expressed bewilderment at why both McCain and Obama feel it is necessary to create their own social networks given that large social networks like Facebook and MySpace already exist.

While I generally agree with Erick’s perspective for most businesses and organizations, in this case he’s flat wrong. The campaigns of the two major party candidates for President are by definition “big enough” to create a critical mass of interest that can make a standalone social network successful.

Like the Republican “all of the above” energy policy that supports increased drilling, conservation and development of renewable alternatives, the social networking strategy for national campaigns should involve both the general purpose sites like Facebook and a proprietary site. In this way, campaigns own the data and can avoid being in a position where a decision by Mark Zuckerberg or his MySpace counterpart would limit their ability to communicate with supporters. And when you create your own site, you have the freedom to add functionality not available in the general purpose sites.

It’s not “either/or;” it’s “both/and.” I’m a McCain supporter on Facebook, but I haven’t joined McCainSpace. Other people may not want to join Facebook, but are motivated enough by the presidential campaign to want to get involved somehow. If they go to, they may just decide to join his social network as their introduction to social networking.

Although the McCain campaign has been behind in its adoption of Web 2.0 strategies, it’s doing fairly well in more traditional Internet campaigning. For example, when I searched for Joe Biden this evening on Google, here was the result page (click to enlarge).

Note that when you click the sponsored link that has the top position on the right side, it takes you to a place where you can see this ad (embedded from YouTube below):


The McCain campaign has others of its ads (including this one that is 94 seconds long and couldn’t be used on broadcast TV) on its YouTube channel.

On the site, as of this evening I saw this banner at the top of the page, which apparently offers different views of the site based on the user’s indication of voting intent (click the image to enlarge).

His site also has a McCain Nation section to encourage activism, a blog that publishes photos and campaign news (and also has embedded YouTube videos, and also has a Volunteer Action Center.

So, while the McCain campaign hasn’t attracted as big a following in the social networking sites, and hasn’t raised anything near the astronomical amounts Obama’s has through the Web and otherwise, it does appear to be closing the gap somewhat and doing some basic things right.

The polls seem to indicate that this race will be another extremely close one. It’s guaranteed to be historic, with either the first African-American president or the first woman VP.

I renew my call for someone on the other side of the aisle to provide a Social Media 302 course on the Obama campaign’s use of the Web.

Update: Scott Meis, on his Social Media Snippets blog, has provided a helpful overview of the Obama campaign’s web efforts. Thanks, Scott!

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RAQ – What is a SMUGgle?

Even though we don’t have our own sports teams (which helps us keep tuition down!), Social Media University Global still needs a nickname for our student body. Referring to the whole bunch as “SMUG students” has an unfortunate connotation, but until a few weeks ago it was the best I could do.

Then, in a comment on this post, Jim Streed suggested “SMUGgles” as the collective shorthand designation. For those who haven’t read the Harry Potter books, it’s a take-off on J.K. Rowling’s name for ordinary mortals, Muggles: those who lack magical powers.

And while “muggles” is sometimes used pejoratively by Harry’s peers, SMUGgles is a label we should all wear proudly. It reinforces one of the founding principles of our institution:

You don’t have to be a wizard to get magical results with these powerful tools.

Everything you see here is accomplished through free or ridiculously inexpensive services like YouTube, Facebook, Flickr and, and with no professional IT support. And with SMUG you can work through the learning process step by step, until you feel confident using these tools in your organization.

But having chosen SMUGgle as our “team name,” that still left us with one problem. We all can picture a Cardinal, or a Blue Jay, or a Viking, but what does a SMUGgle look like? What could be our school mascot?

For now, we’re going with something that bears an eerie resemblance to the “I just joined Facebook” avatar that represents all of us on that social networking platform until we upload a picture. Somehow that seems appropriate, because it shows that SMUG is not only open to newbs, it’s intended for beginners.

But with that, I also want to renew the call for those, newb or not, who have artistic abilities and would like to design a new masthead and logo for SMUG. It would be great to have an official seal that incorporates our Latin motto, Suus Non Ut Diffucile, and if we could get an original drawing for the SMUGgle mascot, that would be fantastic, too.

If the Obama campaign can have an official seal complete with a Latin motto, why not SMUG? To borrow a phrase, “Yes, we can!

I promise that once we select a SMUG seal, we’ll use it a lot longer than Obama did.

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Personal and Professional Personas in Social Networks

In the Facebook 210 course I describe a way to use Facebook’s Friend lists to create a “work-safe” profile that is less likely to cause professional problems, when that high school classmate or college buddy tags you in a questionable photo or writes on your wall. This led to a thoughtful comment from Erik Giberti:

I’ve sent you a friend request and of course your on my limited profile. I find this discussion interesting because there’s a fine line between having a personal persona and a professional persona. I go back and forth on this idea, but I believe that they are really one in the same. The way I am at work is often reflected by the way I am when I’m not at work and vice versa. The reality is, many folks create an artificial “professional” persona that masks who they are in the “real world”. It has been my experience that employers and co-workers can usually tease out trends in your real life personality and spot the fake portions of the professional persona. What’s left is really something closer to your personal persona. So why not just present that first and save everyone the time?

I think Erik has a good point, and personally I don’t have a problem with anyone seeing my whole profile. My life is an open book. And I think the ethic of transparency we are coming to expect from corporations also has some implications for personal life. In fact, that’s why I like Facebook as opposed to MySpace or Second Life. In Facebook people almost always go by the name their parents gave them; in MySpace that’s not necessarily so, and in Second Life you are represented by an avatar and aren’t allowed to use your real name. (I did recently try Second Life, I think my name is Allen Atlass.)

On the other hand, even aside from the potentially problematic posts and tags from others, many people put their religious beliefs and political leanings on their Facebook profiles, and many businesses want to keep politics and religion out of the workplace. You don’t typically put that information on your business card.

LinkedIn doesn’t have anything in its personal profiles that would indicate religious or political persuasion, unless of course you have worked vocationally in religious or political pursuits. For Facebook to be an effective business alternative to LinkedIn (I use both Facebook and LinkedIn, but Facebook to a much greater extent), it needs to duplicate this functionality.

That was the point of Facebook 210 and the subsequent SMUG Research Project; creating an example of how you can avoid broadcasting this personal information to co-workers, customers or clients, but yet share it with your non-work friends.

SMUG students who read my post on religious podcasting have a window to my theological beliefs, and because of my previous career information (which is available on both my LinkedIn and Facebook profiles), they would correctly infer my political sympathies. (Hint: I don’t have a direct psychological stake in the outcome of tomorrow’s Pennsylvania contest between Sen. Clinton and Sen. Obama.) Which leads me to reiterate that the views expressed on this blog are mine, not those of my employer.

So Erik is right to a point; maintaining a sanitized professional persona may not be consistent with the ethic of transparency. One might even call it a matter of integrity in the literal sense. Integrity means being a single person, not having a compartmentalized life. If you’re maintaining a professional profile on LinkedIn and a personal one on Facebook, with completely different friends, you’re already creating this division. Facebook 210 just tells you how to create that separation on a single platform.

I think the key to what Erik says is that a professional persona shouldn’t “mask” who you are in real life. But there’s a difference between hiding information about yourself and not actively promoting things that might be stumbling blocks for some acquaintances.

What do you think?