Social media play growing role in local campaigns

From Houma Today

HOUMA — Hundreds of people are watching this year’s race for Terrebonne Parish president unfold on the Facebook pages of the two candidates who have said publicly they plan to run.

ncumbent Michel Claudet and challenger Parish Council Chairman Clayton Voisin, who have nearly 1,000 Facebook followers combined, are already using the online network to spread their messages and gather feedback.

The use of digital media and social networks in political campaigns, often cited as important to Obama’s 2007 presidential election, is trickling down to the local level, said Vincent Harris, owner of Harris Media, an Austin, Texas, based digital creative and advertising firm. He has worked with Republican campaigns across the country, as well as clients overseas.

“It is nowhere near as common as it should be,” Harris said, adding that many local officials still don’t know what tools are available or that they’re free of charge. “There can be an argument that actually social media and online advertising matters more with local elections with smaller budgets.”

But online social networks can’t replace a candidate showing his face in public and talking with voters in person, Harris added.

Mike Fesi’ II, the youngest Terrebonne president candidate in 2007 at 26 years old, positioned himself at the forefront of using digital media in local campaigns with his text alerts, YouTube videos, social networks and a website. Twitter wasn’t popular locally at the time, he said.

“It’s effective because more and more it becomes part of our daily lives,” Fesi’ said of Facebook. “It’s a lot more convenient. … It’s direct marketing; it goes direct to their phones.”