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Getting elected is all about making connections

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This is the time of the year when our elected leaders turn to thoughts of themselves.

"How are we going to get elected or re-elected?" they ask.

Here are the four hot new words in politics: Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Flickr.

Across the Internet, social media sites like Facebook are zooming. In the last hour there can’t be more than a handful of 20-somethings who have not checked Twitter, groomed their Facebook page or passed on something from YouTube and Flickr.

"If you could harness all those keystrokes into votes, what a great deal that would be for my campaign," our pols must be thinking.

Social media tools are the latest tool in political campaigns, both here and across the nation. The Barack Obama web page from 2008 is still being studied as a masterful way to use the Internet to get voters to the polls.

Done correctly, those Facebook pages and Twitter feeds can be the crack cocaine of politics — something that makes the voters believe politicians love them, want to hear from them and really believe that they are all in this together.

Tara D. Coomans, a social media strategist not working for any local campaigns, says so far Hawaii politicians have not put the effort into correctly using social media — but are learning.

"Social media campaigns are very dynamic. None of the campaigns are utilizing or engaging the community or using social media to present engagement opportunities," Coomans says.

Getting elected is all about making connections. The 20th-century way was a "friend-to-friend" campaign. You asked your supporters, including all those union members who endorsed you, to troop down to campaign headquarters with your Christmas card lists, or your baby luau lists or graduation thank-you card lists.

Then you hand-addressed the campaign cards and reached out to touch a friend. That was then; now you set up a Facebook page and hope the whole thing goes viral.

Tom Kelleher, a communications professor at the University of Hawaii, checked out the local campaigns for governor and offered some suggestions.

All those videos look like television station B-roll — not too impressive, he says. What works is when someone joins a candidate’s Facebook page and actually gets a response from the candidate.

"Social media is like college sports," says Kelleher, who got his doctorate in communications at the University of Florida.

First you are watching two teams play, then it becomes us against them.

"All of a sudden it’s ‘We are winning! It is us!’" Kelleher says.

The trick, say Coomans and Kelleher, is for the candidates’ social media Internet sites to hum with messages back to their followers.

Just the slightest bit of acknowledgment is the warm hug that gets a voter to think, "We are in this together" — and that’s what wins elections.

Richard Borreca writes on politics every Tuesday, Friday and Sunday. Reach him at


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