While many like to debate President Barack Obama's shortcomings, there is one thing for certain: his two presidential campaigns will go down in the history books as being masterful with their deployment of social media and bringing new voters to the polls for the first time. Just as JFK was the first TV president, Barack Obama wins the prize as the social media president.
Now, let's fast forward a year to America's largest city and the media capital of the world —New York. Next week, NYC voters will go to the polls to choose a Democratic and Republican nominee for mayor to replace three-term Mayor Michael Bloomberg. And, you are probably thinking, New York City is charting new territory with social media engagement in the 2013 mayoral race. Well, if you are, then you're dead wrong.
In fact, you would be hard-pressed to find social media playing much of a role in the race. Hard to imagine in a city where marketing, PR, and ad agencies are dueling 24/7 to use the latest social media techniques to spin an opinion, sell a product, or create a movement.
Let me take you inside the campaign for mayor, undoubtedly the most watched race in the US in 2013, where voters could elect the city's first woman and first lesbian (City Council Speaker Christine Quinn) to City Hall, pick a Giuliani protégé (former MTA chairman Joe Lhota), choose the first African-American mayor in 20 years (former comptroller Bill Thompson), or select a progressive white male Democrat (public advocate Bill de Blasio).
Not one of the candidates for mayor is using Instagram, probably the fastest-growing engine in social media with more than 100 million users, to reach voters, or Tumblr, which is now the home to more than 131 million blogs.
Want to talk basics? The top three Democratic candidates for mayor barely hit 10,000 followers on Twitter. De Blasio has 10,959; Quinn has 9,030; and Thompson trails with 5,340. And their likes on Facebook pretty much track their paltry numbers on Twitter!
Like Mitt Romney in his failed presidential bid, the two leading GOP contenders for mayor barely make a mark in social media. Lhota has 1,867 followers on Twitter and 3,049 likes on Facebook, while John Catsmatidis has 3,223 Twitter followers and 11,436 likes on Facebook.
What's wrong with this picture? The verdict is in. Social media has had virtually no presence in the 2013 mayor's race. So who's to blame? Let's start with the candidates and their campaign staffs that have totally missed their mark in keying in on younger voters, social media savvy boomers, and seniors.
Maybe, that's why the next mayor of New York will be elected by less than one-third of the registered voters in the city. Not good for our democracy.
You would think the top 2013 mayoral contenders would be taking a page from Mayors Booker and Bloomberg, who totally get the social media frenzy. Booker is now up to 1.4 million followers on Twitter and Mayor Mike has a half-million.
New Yorkers generally like to be engaged. Maybe this will be a wake-up call for the November general election.
Scott Widmeyer is the founder of Widmeyer Communications and is currently managing partner of Widmeyer, a Finn Partners company. He also serves on the finance committee for Christine Quinn's mayoral bid.