Gordon Chaffin / Uncategorized

Social Media Savvy: Student Body Election Campaign Goes Digital (Gordon Chaffin)

Flickr Creative Commons // krossbow

Tyler Sax and Michael Crouch are Georgetown University juniors running for President and Vice President of their student assembly. Election day is today, and G’Town students can vote online — go to saxcrouch.com and follow the link to the voting page. I’m writing about these guys not just because they deserve the Hoya vote, but also because they’ve run a campaign driven by both innovative campaign strategies and fresh perspectives on student government.

Did you run for student government in high school, or have you recently done the same at your university? Remember the fundamentals of on-campus organizing? There was the flyer distribution — those “quarter-sheets” you handed out on the main thoroughfare of campus. Then came “dorm-storming,” the door-to-door canvassing that implores the residents of each dormitory to vote for you. Finally — and a favorite of mine — were the early morning wake-up calls followed by the production of chalk advertisements drawn on campus sidewalks. Maybe by the end of the day, certainly by the end of the week, weather and the wear of tens of thousands of footsteps would rinse your artistry away — time for another early morning of multi-colored content creation!

All of those still exist, but student elections have gone digital. Tyler and Michael know this, and they’ve created a highly-intuitive, polished website. It’s not about endless bullet points and elaborate promises. They’re letting the concerns of G’Town students define their campaign platform. On Facebook, Twitter, and their website, they’re asking students “if you could change one thing about Georgetown, what would it be?” Sax and Crouch are using the tools of social media to build a conversation, not just to push out their planned campaign message. The G’Town student newspaper, The Hoya, highlighted this refreshing approach in their endorsement of Sax-Crouch.

Both Tyler and Michael are learning things as they campaign. Both have experience in the Georgetown Student Assembly, and they could face the familiar problems of university student assemblies: low approval ratings from the campus body and a less-than-constructive relationship with the school administration. Both have combined traditional courses of study, political economy for Tyler and business for Michael, with computer science coursework.

They emphasize that technology in student government “is about aggregating voicesnot just to give people new tools that will enhance their student experience — but also to open student government and making the participatory process it should be.” Their walking the walk too, campaigning on the idea of a G’Town smartphone app with tools to help students “close the loop” and interact with their University more fluidly.

It’s a crowded race — G’Town has one of the most politically-ambitious student bodies in America. They’re not boasting social media dominance either, and have complimented their opponents for “making good use of social media — particularly content publishing…[including] several creative videos and photo series.”

Today’s election results are in doubt but one thing is for certain, Tyler Sax and Michael Crouch are showing the real power of social media and Web 2.0. No, Twitter is not a press release spigot. Please no, Facebook is not about copy-pasting language from your website onto your fan page. Social media is about re-building the conversation between voters and elected officials. Both sides can gain from this experience; it’s a two-way conversation and with these new tools, trust can be built back up between America’s leaders and her citizens who are now so skeptical of institutions.

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