At Convention, Tea Partiers Work to Get High-Tech

“Obama doesn’t have the corner of the market on social media,” said Vincent Harris, who served on the social media panel. He runs Harris Media LLC, which manages digital campaigns for high-profile conservative candidates.
The key to helping conservatives’ message go viral is speed, authenticity and good visuals, he said.

“If you want to see someone who did this right, Google a political video called ‘Electric Fences.’ ” Harris told the attendees. As he talks, several people in the room do just that. Up comes an ad for Texas Railroad Commission candidate Roland Sledge.

Sledge ran in the Republican primary for a seat on the oil and gas regulatory agency. It depicts a politician who looks like convicted former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich — a Democrat — getting electrocuted after he relieves himself on an electric fence. As soon as the Republican candidate for this obscure but powerful local office posted the ad on his website, it went viral.

“Yes, it was random, silly and outside the box, but it got the attention of more than just conservative bloggers,” Harris said. “Now we didn’t win — he had such a tiny budget — but it captured national attention, and our message broke through.”

Panelist Liba Rubenstein, Tumblr’sdirector for outreach, said photographs are equally effective — if not more so — when people want to get their message out online. “You may have a good message, but sometimes it’s hard to read with all that’s out there,” Rubenstein said. “People will always click on good still images.”

The audience was clearly receptive to the advice. After Rubenstein spoke, an activist in the audience said she signed up for Tumblr while the panelists were still talking.
Harris says the way the convention itself has used social media is proof that Republicans are embracing this form of communication. Done effectively, it will help boost grassroots interest in the party, he said.
“At this convention, you do see thousands of tweets going around the convention hall. Google, Facebook — all have a big presence here,” Harris said. “In terms of it being the convention without walls, it seems like they are doing a very good job of bringing America into the convention and bringing the ideas out of the convention and out to voters — and you have to,” Harris said.

“The typical Republican voter is not here at the convention. To reach them with our message, we’ve got to use more and more social media to break through — so they’ll hear us and vote for us in November.”