Why Isn’t the Republican Party More Interested in Facebook?

republicanlogoWe don’t espouse political philosophy here on Inside Facebook, though we are in favor of encouraging constructive political debate. That’s why we were surprised to hear at last night’s Startup2Startup event from Randi Zuckerberg, Facebook’s manager of political and social change initiatives, that despite her team’s best efforts during last year’s election season, the Republican Party generally wasn’t very enthusiastic about making Facebook a strategic part of its campaigns.

Zuckerberg, speaking alongside Chris Sacca (Twitter investor, surrogate speaker for the Obama campaign during the election, and former Googler) and Steve Grove (YouTube’s news and political director), said at Startup2Startup’s “Government 2.0″ event last night (full video below) that Facebook made every election season idea and political program equally available to all candidates, but Republicans just pursued those ideas less. Even when the Obama campaign would come to Facebook with new ideas, Facebook shared them with the McCain campaign, she said.

“We made very sure to offer the same thing to both sides. There were even times when the Obama campaign would come to us with incredible ideas, and we told them that even though this was their idea, just by telling us about it, we were going to have to offer it to the McCain campaign also. However, the McCain campaign did not usually take us up on the ideas,” Zuckerberg said.

In addition to its Facebook Pages, Platform applications, and advertising campaigns, the Obama campaign was also first to implement Facebook Connect. Chris Hughes, a co-founder of Facebook, led many of Obama’s social media efforts.

“The Obama campaign was really run like a technology company. They were really quick to adopt a lot of things. They actually came to us with more ideas than we brought to them. We were really focused on building scalable tools for any politicians to use, local or national, and the Obama campaign had really tremendous ideas for how to leverage the viral spread of information,” Zuckerberg added.

To illustrate the general difference between the ways the two parties were interested in working with Facebook during the campaign season,  Zuckerberg told the story that while Facebook was overwhelmed with organizers interested in meeting with them during the Democratic National Convention – even being whisked away to VIP parties and the like – Facebook’s political team had a harder time finding people interested in meeting during the Republican National Convention the following week.

“I was begging people to meet with us,” Zuckerberg said.

The results, which have been well documented, speak for themselves. The Obama campaign schooled the rest of the world on how social media is done.

Since the US Presidential elections, Zuckerberg said Facebook has received an outpouring of interest from candidates around the world interested in “doing an Obama.” Political parties around the globe are considering how to apply lessons learned from the United States in 2008 to their upcoming elections. That makes sense, as 70% of Facebook’s user base lives outside the US.

In fact, just today, the Conservative Party in the UK launched a new Facebook application encouraging constituents to “donate their status” ahead of the European elections next week.

This use of social media by the Conservatives is reminiscent of the Obama campaign’s deployment of similar tactics during the race for the White House last autumn,” Emma Barnett of the London Telegraph wrote earlier today.

By this point, the Republican Party (and every party) has surely realized the ways social media and Facebook have changed politics. 60 million Americans from 13 to 65 are getting their news from their friends on Facebook each month, and the persuasive power of social recommendations is much stronger than any TV, radio, or newspaper ad can ever be.

As Steve Grove said last night, political dynamics map very well to the social web. Any political candidate who doesn’t do their very best to understand and use Facebook and other social tools to the best of their potential does so to their own detriment.

Update: Matt Burns, director of communications for the 2008 Republican National Convention who commented below, issued the following follow-up comment to Inside Facebook:

“I LOVE Facebook as much as the next person.  I can’t speak for the McCain campaign because I wasn’t working on its new media efforts, but the convention itself made unprecedented efforts to incorporate new media into our campaign.   Over the course of our convention, we attracted 1.7 million unique visitors, and strategically partnered with Google/YouTube and Ustream.TV to draw an additional 7 million unique viewers to our content.  And the GOP convention had more Facebook “friends” than the Democratic National Convention.  We had about 10,000, while the Dem Convention had about 3,300.”

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29 Responses to “Why Isn’t the Republican Party More Interested in Facebook?”

  1. Michael Bauser says:

    The Republican Party isn’t interested in Facebook because the Republican establishment isn’t interested in hearing from its base. They just want the base to shut up and follow orders.

    The most vibrant displays of Republican activity on Facebook right now are the rebels and the rabblerousers like these guys.

    Know what the Republicans do want from their base? Money. If Facebook had gone to them with a fundraising platform, and demographic surveys showing Facebook users had the money to burn, the Republicans would have been all over that.

  2. Monique says:

    Spoken like one who knows nothing about Republicans. It is no secret that the McCain campaign was very poorly run. Further, I would have to say that “shut[ting] up and follow[ing] orders” is generally what the Democratic base does, seeing as how the appear as easily led sheep.

  3. Alexander Muse says:

    Most Republicans never really considered McCain much of a Republican. He is certainly not a conservative. I guess the party nominated him because the press ‘had’ always liked him. They always gave him a free ride and we knew that we needed all the help we could get if we wanted to beat Obama or Clinton. That is a long winded way of saying that whether or not McCain embraced Facebook has little or nothing to do with whether or not Republicans are using Facebook.

    I think the demographic of Facebook early on was young and liberal. Of course as Facebook grows the demographics are changing. More and more older folks who are more and more conservative are on the platform. As a result it will be an important political venue for conservatives in the next Congressional elections and in the next Presidential election three years from now.

    I have hundreds of conservative friends on Facebook today – almost none of whom were on the system during the last Presidential election. This is telling…

  4. Fred Hundt says:

    Great story. I’ve been a fundraiser for the Republicans, and I know we weren’t paying enough attention to Facebook and other social networking sites. I’ve been campaigning like a “Southern diplomat” for a broader fundraising strategy. Keep the pressure on, maybe we’ll get it.

  5. DCS says:

    As someone who left the Republican party years ago, I have to agree with Michael, I don’t think the Party *really* cares to engage w/ its grassroots members. But I also think the Party’s lack of enthusiasm for FB and social media in general during the campaign was in large part because it seemed — and still very much seems — like hostile territory where many are simply intolerant of individuals with believes that are center-right to conservative. FWIW.

  6. David Smith says:

    The Republican Party, as in the national and “power structure” Republicans, are not interested in seeing political change. And by change, I mean the two-party, established, “we’re in power now and we’ll do as we danged well please” system–neither wants to see that kind of change.

    And that is what IT, the Internet and facebook offer–an opportunity for individuals to radically affect the political system at a fundamental, grassroots level. It is easy with facebook and twitter to communicate a large body of information quickly to a large number of people. Using that, it is easy to anticipate seeing the following scenario take place:

    A politician is going to appear at an evening event, but their appearance is not announced until that afternoon. A constituent finds out about it and blasts it out to all their friends, tweets, etc. And suddenly, this incumbent is faced with 20 unexpected attendees at their evening talk. If that is a Texas Senator John Carona, the fireworks will be flying! Because John will be showing up from now on thinking, “Oh, I get to go talk about how we need to hold our Representatives accountable,” and the other attendees will be holding HIM accountable with tough questions! And NO politician likes tough, direct questioning by an informed electorate.

    Sadly, the Republican Party as we currently know it likes the system it helped put in place. That’s OK–the rest of us have facebook…let the Party “powers that be” eat the cake. 2010 is right around the corner.

    Get your tweet’in on!!

  7. Marshall Kirkpatrick says:

    Ha ha, who cares. They have a corner on the finger nails torn out method of communication.

  8. Snowflakes in Hell » Blog Archive » Stupid Party Indeed says:

    [...] Facebook worked to get the Republican Party on board with using their site for their 2008 election efforts, and there was no [...]

  9. BYoung says:

    Who cares? Who really wants them on Facebook? That’s like inviting child molesters to the school playground. Please, Facebook is a relatively nice place for decent people to hang out and share photos of friends and family. If the GOP/RNC needs a place to scream and yell their “hatriotic” slogans, turn them loose on MySpace or let them create their own social network, complete with loyalty oath and a very wide photo of Rush’s butt to kiss every time they log in.

  10. Matt Burns says:

    With all due respect, Randi Zuckerberg is totally full of sh*t on this one – at least as her comments relate to the Republican National Convention.

    As the Director of Communications for the convention, I can tell you we worked closely with Google/YouTube, Ustream.tv, Microsoft, and countless other companies to create a comprehensive and successful online campaign. Those efforts were recently recognized with five “Pollie Awards” from The Association of Political and Public Affairs Professionals. And we utilized Facebook – even if it wasn’t up to Ms. Zuckerberg’s standards – as part of our overall strategy.

    Is it possible Ms. Zuckerberg sat alone in her hotel room during the Republican National Convention because she never actually contacted anyone? Or maybe she forgot about the major hurricane barreling toward the Gulf Coast on the eve of the Republican National Convention? Or maybe she didn’t really want to be around a group of conservative Americans in the first place?

    According to the Wall Street Journal: “’At the Democratic convention we were like rock stars,’ Zuckerberg said Thursday to a conference crowd of what could safely be called Democratic-leaning entrepreneurs and investors.”

    Wait. Ms. Zuckerberg bashed Republicans while speaking to an audience of her liberal friends? Shocker!

    In all seriousness, can Ms. Zuckerberg tell us what the Democratic National Convention did with Facebook – aside from pet their enlarged egos and take them to glitzy parties with the Hollywood elite – that Republican National Convention planners didn’t?

    I guess next time we won’t make the mistake of letting the business of nominating our Presidential candidate get in the way of the folks at Facebook being treated like rock stars.

    Apologies to Facebook. Our bad.

    Matt Burns
    Director of Communications
    2008 Republican National Convention
    mattaburns@gmail.com

  11. Michael Bauser says:

    Anybody else notice that the sites in Matt Burns’s “successful online campaign” are mostly broadcasting sites like Ustream and YouTube? The Republicans still think recruiting voters is about repeating their message over and over. They almost completely missed the potential for social sites to help organize supporters. Now, almost six months later, the only Republicans who are using social networking successfully are, as I pointed out, the ones disagreeing with their leadership.

    Mark’s doing the same thing everybody in the Republican establishment has been doing since November: Insisting they ran the best campaign despite the results. There are huge number of Republicans who think the Democrats got “lucky” or “cheated” by running a “rock star” candidate. As long as they keep insisting that, they’re going to be in trouble.

    The rest of his petty rant just reinforces what commenter DCS said above: The Republican party is far too eager to write off entire groups (in this case, Facebook) as too “liberal” to take seriously. Their fixation on ideological purity is preventing them from trying new approaches to organizing.

    To “Monique” — I know all about Republicans. As a Democrat in Michigan, I help kick their asses on a regular basis. But your “easily led sheep” comment is another example of Republican delusion. Do you really think six months of the “Hillary vs Barack Show” last year was us following a plan? We’re Democrats — we’re known for spending more time arguing with each other than with the other Party!

  12. Republican PR Director Calls Facebook’s Randi Zuckerberg “totally full of sh*t” says:

    [...] a Startup2Startup event last week Zuckerberg talked about her experiences at the Republican and Democratic presidential conventions last year. The relevant [...]

  13. Republican PR Director Calls Facebook’s Randi Zuckerberg “totally full of sh*t” | UpOff.com says:

    [...] a Startup2Startup event last week Zuckerberg talked about her experiences at the Republican and Democratic presidential conventions last year. The relevant [...]

  14. TechDozer » Republican PR Director Calls Facebook’s Randi Zuckerberg “totally full of sh*t” says:

    [...] a Startup2Startup event last week Zuckerberg talked about her experiences at the Republican and Democratic presidential conventions last year. The relevant [...]

  15. TumbleTech » Republican PR Director Calls Facebook’s Randi Zuckerberg “totally full of sh*t” says:

    [...] a Startup2Startup event last week Zuckerberg talked about her experiences at the Republican and Democratic presidential conventions last year. The relevant [...]

  16. Dave McClure says:

    mr. burns: wow, very progressive opinion there.

    >>Wait. Ms. Zuckerberg bashed Republicans while speaking to an audience of her liberal friends? Shocker!

    i think you’ll find that altho there are many Obama fans in Silicon Valley, there are an equal number of moderate conservatives who wish the Republican Party adopted a little more forward-thinking approach to digital media. the audience was hardly a group of fawning “liberals”. get a clue dude… 1/3 of the people there were free-trade, money-grubbing VCs just like me. the other 2/3 were tech entrepreneurs who were there to start businesses & make money.

    you’re way off base assuming the crowd was a bunch of bleeding-hearts. however, we SURE AS HELL want to see our leaders know what they’re doing with technology, and it was pretty obvious the Bush administration and even the McCain campaign were woefully inadequate in that regard.

    whether or not you folks underachieved or not, it’s readily apparent the current and previous administration approach to technology are nothing short of night vs day.

    to profess the RNC had its act together and “completed online campaign strategies successfully” is even more evidence of your lack of awareness of what successful strategy looks like.

    hope you enjoy those 5 awards on your mantle over the next 4-8 years. then again you might want to take a look at how you could execute them better in 2012 & 2016.

  17. Republican PR Director Calls Facebook’s Randi Zuckerberg “totally full of sh*t” | The Good NET Guide says:

    [...] a Startup2Startup event last week Zuckerberg talked about her experiences at the Republican and Democratic presidential conventions last year. The relevant [...]

  18. Technical blogs with pictures and videos » Republican PR Director Calls Facebook’s Randi Zuckerberg “totally full of sh*t” says:

    [...] a Startup2Startup event last week Zuckerberg talked about her experiences at the Republican and Democratic presidential conventions last year. The relevant [...]

  19. 共和党の広報がFacebookのRandi Zuckerbergを”く*ったれ”呼ばわり says:

    [...] 先週のStartup2StartupというイベントでZuckerbergは、去年の共和党民主党両党の、大統領候補を選出する党大会で経験したことを語った。そのときのビデオが上にある(提供:Ustream)。 [...]

  20. Why Isn’t the Republican Party More Interested in Facebook? | Justin Smith | Voices | AllThingsD says:

    [...] Read the rest of this post on the original site Tagged: Facebook, Internet, Voices, digital, campaign, Inside Facebook, Justin Smith, Randi Zuckerberg, Republican Party, Startup2Startup | permalink Sphere.Inline.search(“”, “http://voices.allthingsd.com/20090601/why-isn%e2%80%99t-the-republican-party-more-interested-in-facebook/”); « Previous Post [...]

  21. QOTD | John Paczkowski | Digital Daily | AllThingsD says:

    [...] Matt Burns, director of communications for the 2008 Republican National Convention Print [...]

  22. peHUB » RNC PR Director Calls Mark Zuckerberg’s Sister “Totally Full of Sh*t,” Then Backpedals: “I LOVE Facebook” says:

    [...] post, titled, “Why Isn’t the Republican Party More Interested in Facebook,” quotes Randi Zuckerberg, Facebook’s manager of political and social change initiatives (and [...]

  23. Mikael Fransson says:

    Republicans reaching out again…good job;-)

    Sounded more like sour grapes to me.

    /Mikael

  24. The Far Edge » Blog Archive » Republican PR Director Calls Facebook’s Randi Zuckerberg “totally full of sh*t” says:

    [...] a Startup2Startup event last week Zuckerberg talked about her experiences at the Republican and Democratic presidential conventions last year. The relevant [...]

  25. Kara says:

    Hi Justin,

    Fascinating article. I work for Peachpit Press and wanted to let you and your readers know that we just published a book by Rahaf Harfoush, (a volunteer on the Obama campaign) ‘Yes We Did! An inside look at how social media built the Obama brand.’

    This book takes a first-hand look at some of the important technological innovations that made many aspects of the Obama campaign possible and examines the political decisions that allowed the Obama team to be innovative with their social media strategy. A sample chapter of this book is now available on our site. Enjoy!

    http://tr.im/nsR2

  26. Rick-zilla versus Mecha-Kay – Game on! says:

    [...] An early campaign website like this is no surprise, despite the Republicans’ traditional failure to appropriately manage or understand the web as a political tool (see “Doing An Obama”). [...]

  27. Sarah Palin Turning To Facebook To Spread Her Political Views says:

    [...] Republican Party may not have made the best use of Facebook in last fall’s elections, but If you’re looking to keep tabs on the latest Sarah Palin news these days, your best bet [...]

  28. Governments Turn to Facebook to Share Election Info « Lonnée Hamilton: New Media Political Consultant says:

    [...] voting. They’re likely encouraged by seeing Facebook’s relevance in big 2008 campaigns, when both major US political parties, and especially President Barack Obama’s campaign, used the service to promote [...]

  29. Breakfast briefing: Facebook and the Republicans go head to head | Richard Hartley says:

    [...] for the Republican National Convention left a comment at Inside Facebook saying that, With all due respect, Randi Zuckerberg is totally full of sh*t on this one. His asterisk, not mine – and somehow, that little self-censorship makes his sentiment even less [...]

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