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    « How Virtual Worlds Are Evolving and Supporting Players with Disabilities | Main | Are Mobile Web Devices Turning Us Antisocial, or Merely Shifting the Conversation? »

    09/08/2010

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    Hmm... I'm a little disappointed as you misreport on a couple of facts in this article.

    "For all the glitz and glamor of "New Media Specialists" and virtual world campaign headquarters distributing virtual t-shirts, more often than not the eyes of potential activists and voters are simply not on the virtual world."

    I agree, however, the Economist article you reference doesn't mention virtual worlds at all. The word "virtual" or the phrase "Second Life" doesn't appear a single time. Yet you claim:

    "The competition between Prime Minister Gordon Brown's New Labour and David Cameron's Conservatives won't look much like Barack Obama's presidential campaign, the Economist argues, in part because virtual worlds lend themselves to the long and expensive campaign system of the United States."

    Your quote indicates that the Economist specifically mentions virtual worlds. It doesn't.

    "Television and radio are still by far the dominant force in political advertising, and the amount of set-up and publicity required to increase awareness about a candidate's virtual headquarters often outweighs the limited benefits."

    To support this assertion, you mention John Edwards' "Campaign HQ" in Second Life from 2008:

    "During the 2008 campaign, Edwards' staff purchased land and a house in Second Life, filled it with free Edwards shirts and hats, and promptly left it to gather dust."

    As reported at ZDNet here http://blogs.zdnet.com/social/?p=91 - the Second Life "campaign HQ" was a site done by a supporter of Edwards, *not* by "Edwards' staff" as you claimed. (That made it all the more hilarious when Fox News picked up the story and ran a "ZOMG John Edwards is in Second Life ... you know what else is in Second Life? SEX!" piece.)

    The remainder of your article focuses in on "how many fans did Obama really get?" Is this even the best metric to track? I think a much bigger and more relevant metrics is "How many tweets and facebook messages and links referencing Obama were there?" While I don't have these numbers available, your argument that social networking didn't necessarily make Obama's election successful is *based* on the idea that *only* the followers are important.

    I'm sorry, Max, but this story requires fact-checking and additional research for me to be convinced.

    Ron,

    Very true that The Economist doesn't mention virtual worlds - I was using their article on social media to also build a case that expands into virtual worlds given my own research and the research of others.

    Social media is definitely an emerging trend, and it's receiving more than its fair share of hype, so it's important to keep in mind the difficulty of monetization and moving people from passively joining a Facebook or Twitter following to actually campaigning for or funding a candidate.

    I don't have data on how many Tweets or Facebook links Obama's messages had - almost surely more than McCain by double, if other new media trends related to Obama are any guideline - but we do know that traditional media swamped new media in 2008, and that a fair amount of Obama's supporters on FB/Twitter were and continue to be foreign nationals with no voting power.

    It's an interesting thing, and I intend to do more research on it in the near future.

    Above all, I think this is *exactly* the right question to be asking. While I'm critical, at the same time I want to mention that social media evangelists take this as a given, and industry and marketing people are just scratching their heads hoping the social media gurus are right.

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