Technology’s Influence on Politics

October 27, 2015

In 1920, radio transformed elections. In 1960, TV reigned. Now, online media rank supreme, with election campaigns morphing into constant social-media-streams, customized to fit distracted users’ devices and attention spans. In the 2016 presidential elections, social media are the key battleground for any politician hoping to make the cut. According to The Hill, “9.5 percent of political media budgets could go towards digital media — a total of $1 billion.”

Tech & Politics C&C“Access to information has been revolutionized,” says Jessica Singleton (@jessay286), chief digital officer at the City of New York and a panelist at NYWICI’s Cocktails & Conversations “Technology’s Influence on Politics” that was held during social media week on Oct. 20, 2015. The sold-out event brought together a panel of media experts at Bloomberg’s sparkling headquarters in Midtown to discuss the changing media landscape of political campaigning. Panelists also included Gillea Allison, digital strategist at Blue State Digital (@gilleaa), Geoffrey Borshof, CEO of Mosaic Strategies Group (@MosaicSTG) and Julie Wood, director of Global Communications at Kickstarter (@juliewood). The moderator was Melinda Henneberger, a senior writer at Bloomberg (@MelindaDC).

President Obama's tweet announcing his victory in 2008 (in the so-called “Facebook election”), was retweeted 157 times. His 2012 victory tweet (during the “Twitter election”) was retweeted more than 800,000 times, according to a study on social media use in campaigns conducted by the University of North Carolina. The 2016 election might turn out to be the “Instagram election” with its quick and quirky graphics and reach even the youngest voters — 300 million of whom use Instagram more than any other social media platform.

Social media campaignsDemocrats have held an edge over Republicans in their online-driven campaigns, since they make it a habit to recruit young tech talent early on who are fluent in every conceivable social media platform. The party has surpassed the Republicans in engaging people online, explains Gillea. “Democratic voters help get the message out for Democrats.” They are eager to topple the top-down approach that is driven by mainstream editors and elite thought-leaders. But not just age, also gender affects social media campaigns: “Women are sharers by nature online,” says Gillea. “Campaigns can capitalize on women’s social influence and ability to organize communities.”

So, are we better off perusing a constant stream of news, or have social media skewed the message completely, causing voters to tune out eventually and politicians to put up their guards? Social media give the power back to the people to make up their minds and take action, says Jessica. “Tech in elections on a global scale is revolutionary. Decisions are made because people get more information.”

The confluence of streaming video apps — like Vine, Meerkat, Periscope and Snapchat — could be a political game changer and democratize information gathering and distribution as never before. Everyone is searching for the authentic voice, says Julie. “Drumpf seems to be succeeding the most at that. And campaigns have to find their authentic brand voice to succeed.” In this environment, voters demand more and raise the quality of what to expect, states Gillea. It has set standards in what the experience should be like and has elevated the expectations from politicians.

That said, Geoffrey argues that digital has also triggered an “accidental transparency”: messages go viral, trend immediately and as a result cause politicians to clam up to become less authentic and truthful. They know that they are observed 24/7. “Accidental gaffes go viral; it changes the game,” cautions Geoffrey. On the other hand, politicians can utilize social media whenever traditional media won’t give them adequate coverage or won’t cooperate.

The constant need to feed the news stream can lead to redundancy and sloppiness. “You have to be current when promoting articles,” warns Geoffrey. Only very good older material should be pushed again to be picked up by social media. “The notion of outdated on the internet is outdated. But the up-to-date physical “ask” still makes a big difference. Don’t expect your content to drive itself.”

At the end, however, digital hasn't changed everything and final decisions are still being made by how compelling the politicians are, according to Julie. “The medium has changed — but people haven’t changed their voting habits.”

Video excerpts of the discussion:


NYWICI Twitter transcript from the event: https://storify.com/NYWICI/panel-technology-s-influence-on-politics

Photos: Jan Goldstoff. View more images on NYWICI's Facebook page.



Posted by: 
Tekla Szymanski

Facebook & LinkedIn: Latest Trends

October 21, 2015

NYWICI Twitter ChatIt is no surprise that social media are always changing and constantly evolving. According to the Digital, Social and Mobile in 2015 report, there are more than 2 billion active social media accounts worldwide. With the ongoing growth of social media, it may be challenging for brands to keep up with the latest updates. There are always new features and functionalities on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter — and staying up-to-date on the latest trends can be daunting.

We recently launched a 3-part digital treadmill series through our bi-weekly Twitter chats. Twitter chat cohosts are industry leaders who provide insight on the latest trends in social media. Part 1 of our 3-part series focused on “The Latest Trends in Facebook & LinkedIn.” Our cohost, Nelly Yusupova, is CTO of Webgrlls International. 

Between Facebook & LinkedIn, which platform is more important with respect to promoting one’s own business? Nelly responds :  “Facebook & LinkedIn are very different platforms but both can be used to promote your business effectively. To have success on any platform, brands must understand the platform’s strengths and audience.”

With that said, Nelly shares the following tips and trends:


  1. Facebook is now a pay to play platform; you have to pay to reach the people who have liked your business page.
  2. Video Domination — native video is skyrocketing and getting a lot of engagement
  3. Marketers should maximize organic Facebook reach before paying for ads by making their content more engaging
  4. The more your followers engage with your content, the more they will see your posts in their feeds.
  5. Use Facebook advertising tools like ‘Custom audiences’ and ‘Look-alike audiences.’ These allow you to segment your customers
  6. Utilize the conversion tracking pixel to measure the impact of your Facebook campaigns


  1. LinkedIn is a platform for professionals. People expect to discover experts on topics that are of interest to them
  2. LinkedIn company pages are not a big deal, and they often don’t generate tangible results. However, company pages do provide exposure that wasn’t previously available to personal profiles via 'Sponsored Updates'.
  3. You should have a Company page, but the real results will come from building relationships on your personal Profile.
  4. Publishing on LinkedIn Pulse can help you build your profile, make new connections and find new career opportunities.
  5. Experimenting with getting published on LinkedIn and getting exposure on Pulse help you showcase your expertise to relevant and interested audiences outside of your network.

In addition to staying up-to-date on the latest trends, brands must remember to engage their audience. Don’t be afraid to add a ‘voice’ and personalize the experience for your followers. Nelly’s takeaway point:  “Have a goal for each platform and create a marketing plan with tactics based on your goals.”

Read the transcript of this Twitter Chat. Join us for Part 2 of this series on Oct. 27 on Twitter & Periscope, and make sure to use the hashtag #nywicichat in your tweets.

Posted by: 
Rodeena Stephens

Q&A with Gillea Allison, Director of Community at Blue State Digital

October 14, 2015

By Michele Hush and Susan Soriano

Gillea Allison was a panelist at our recent event Technology's Influence on Politics on Oct. 20, 2015. We spoke to her about how her agency has dealt with the intersection of media and politics.  

Gillea AllisonTell us about your role at Blue State Digital and what they focus on as a digital agency?

Blue State Digital (BSD) is a digital agency and tech shop that builds and mobilizes communities online for some of the world’s largest nonprofits, brands, and advocacy organizations from Google, to NAACP, to Heifer International to the Rockefeller Foundation. We’re best known for our work leading the digital teams in President Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns (of which I was a part), and our mantra is to help organizations build better relationships with their people. We also have a technology arm, BSD Tools, that powers hundreds of brand, nonprofit, political, and advocacy digital programs, which I’m now the Director of Community for.

Given your background, both working on the Obama for America campaign and at D Magazines, how has your view of the media and marketing landscape evolved?
My dad started D Magazine in 1974 and my parents both run it today, so I’ve watched first hand how the media landscape has evolved.  

What I love is that the fundamental reasons I got into politics, media, and marketing haven’t shifted. In both fields, you need to communicate a message (ideally something you believe in), find and cultivate the people who will be most receptive to that message, and then make them feel empowered to become advocates for your brand or cause.

You’ve had a wonderful varied career, how have you managed to stay on top of the latest trends and utilized your skill set? 
Thank you! I don’t think there’s a single outlet that has become my mainstay, for me it’s more about how the platforms are evolving and incorporating the latest technology vs. the latest trend. At BSD, we’re not necessarily looking for the sexiest thing we’re looking for programs and products that will impact others to have a better experience.

You worked for Obama twice in your career — as a campaign that gained notoriety for using social media and digital platforms what were some of the notable differences from 2008 and 2012? 
In 2008, digital was off in its corner, doing incredible work but not necessarily appreciated to the extent that it should have been. In 2012, digital had a seat at the table, a 200+ person team, and was able to make autonomous and in-the-moment decisions that created some of the most memorable moments of the campaign (This Seat’s Taken, Four More Years).

Regardless, there’s been a deep desire to connect online and offline. My team in 2012 was responsible for coordinating with the offline field, and I only expect this to grow.

Were there any cutting edge marketing or pushing of traditional boundaries in digital marketing that you were a part of either at that time or in your current role at BSD?
I’m pretty proud of AddUp.Org — a custom online organizing platform we built with the Sierra Club. AddUp is a reflection of uniting silos across teams of an organization, unifying disparate technology, and providing users with extremely powerful tools to run and manage campaigns. It’s also a reflection of nonprofits thinking more like tech platforms, and hope to see more of this trend.

Are there any digital platforms that in your opinion are currently underutilized and think we’ll see more of in the political arena? 
I think most digital platforms are actually over utilized with mediocre content, but I hope to see more authentic insights this cycle that Snapchat, Periscope, and quick Instagram or Facebook videos can provide. That said, if your campaign does not have an authentic message, positivity, or excitement, there’s no way that a digital platform can fill that gap, so it’s not about the hottest thing, but more about what and how you’re saying it.

In social as well as paid media, it's important to remember that a campaign is only of short term interest. They go out of business whether they win or lose in November. There are no points awarded for making a smart five-year bet on the "next big thing."

In your work at BSD, do you see commonalities between your political and advocacy clients and any others?
All of them! Many have the same issues: breaking through a cluttered space, keeping momentum going, providing the best experience for people. It requires a lot of work on the internal side; unifying databases; creating more nimble approval processes; and having access to more compelling stories to keep people engaged. If you don’t have an authentic message, all of it is null.

Do you ever have to check your personal political ideas at the door at work?
Thankfully no! After the campaign, it was clear that I needed my next job to be somewhere that shared the same values, that was open and upfront about its politics, and that had the leveI of smart, committed colleagues. It’s why I work at Blue State Digital, where our walls are lined with political memorabilia, we drank champagne and cried on the day that SCOTUS made same sex marriage the law of the land, and that I’m still surrounded by some of the smartest people I know. I understand that we’re unique, but think I’d have a difficult time working for a place that didn’t encourage open political conversations and people expressing their views and passion. I feel very lucky.

Register for the Oct. 20 panel.

NYWICI Must-Reads October 9, 2015

October 9, 2015
Posted by: 
Davida Arnold