The only acceptable way to announce that you're running for president is to do it with social media. President Obama led the charge, with his video announcement in early April on YouTube. Just a couple weeks ago, Newt Gingrich took to the world's top microblogging site (Twitter) to let the world know he was throwing his hat in the ring. And now Minnesota governor, Tim Pawlenty, has demonstrated that he, too, is hip to the new media movement.
Here's the YouTube message from Pawlenty, announcing his intent to run for President:
Why Is YouTube So Popular With Presidential Hopefuls?
How many more presidential hopefuls will take to YouTube for their official announcement? If they're smart, all of them. There are several reasons why YouTube is the new "press conference" for candidates:
YouTube Is Popular
There are viewers—and voters—on YouTube who may not watch the evening news. Since the candidates know that the evening news will still pick up the YouTube announcement as a major story, they can get that publicity while also potentially reaching millions of new eyeballs.
YouTube Is Sharable
Social media services, and YouTube's own internal sharing functions, make it easy for fans of a particular candidate to help spread the message to other potential voters. Video is much more sharable than a paper press release or a television press conference.
YouTube Is Video
Video is the most popular content format online, period. If tomorrow morning, we all woke up and decided we were done with watching videos… and that text was making a comeback… well, then, you'd see candidates abandon YouTube like it was the Titanic and they'd all start issuing written press releases again.
YouTube Is Hip
President Obama and, to a lesser extent, John McCain, really changed the face of political media during the last presidential election. They utilized YouTube, Facebook, & Twitter in ways that made politicians stand up and take notice. They connected with voters, who took ownership of the election and used social media as a way to get involved. So naturally… all the cool kids are doing it now.
YouTube Is Controllable… Sort Of
YouTube lets a presidential candidate control his or her own message completely, in ways that a press conference or prime time news interview can't. Of course, the flip side of that control is the complete and utter lack of control over what goes on in the comments section. Potential politicians take note: if you leave comments turned on, the YouTube commenters will eat you alive… and if you turn comments off, you'll be seen as anti-social. Politicians are probably used to opposing viewpoints; I'm sure they'll find a way to avoid getting too bothered by the commenters.
Like it or not, YouTube is the new podium for the digital political age. At least… until something else comes along that takes its place. It's a proven way to reach a huge audience on a small budget, and it's a flexible enough format to allow your fans to help spread the word about your cause. Don't expect to see any videos that are truly revolutionary—after all, these are politicians we're talking about here. But be encouraged that your politicians are at least trying to reach voters with new media. And… when you think about it… isn't that a little bit revolutionary in and of itself?