This is a guest post by Jenny Braudaway – a media culture expert and Marketing Associate at Rand Media Group, a full service, integrated online marketing company based in Chicago. She blogs at the RMG blog, and tweets @sweetfracture5.

Social media marketers take note. In light of the recent midterm elections, what do Foursquare, Twitter and Facebook all have in common? If you said that they all care deeply about democracy, well…you’d be wrong. (And if you said that they are all social media giants, well then, you’d be Captain Obvious). The answer? They all know how to leverage a social event and they know how to make themselves useful.

Midterm 2010 Social Media Inspiration

As part of its efforts to participate in the midterm elections, Twitter announced on its blog that for the first time ever, users would be able to follow the election “in its entirety–via text and video–on Twitter.com.” Detailing partnerships with major news organizations such as @cnn (who would be analyzing the “public’s thoughts and conversations about key races and issues” through tweets) and @washingtonpost, sponsor of the #election hashtag, Twitter effectively became the one-stop online hub for election news and gossip, while its Twitter Vote Report project kept mobile tweepl up to date on wait times at their local polling places. Meanwhile, Facebook and Foursquare did their part with location-based “I Voted” badges as well as data collection and reporting.

All of this made for the most social-media centric election yet. By the end of election day, over 12 million people clicked the “I voted” button on Facebook and over 50,000 checked in to their polling places using Foursquare. As for Twitter, its place as news media’s partner in crime for breaking news coverage was cemented. And though it is yet to be seen how @washingtonpost’s promoted #election trending topic affected its web traffic performance, odds are, it didn’t hurt. Indeed, it may very well pave the way for how media organizations will use promoted trending topics in the future.

Midterm 2010 Social Media Inspiration

Without completely writing off altruism as a motive for the trio of social media giants – after all, @foxnews was notably missing from Twitter’s list of election coverage compadres – it goes without saying that the personal is political. The benefits are hard to measure but easy to identify, namely, Twitter/Facebook/Foursquare’s successful branding of their cultural use-value. Sure, it’s no secret that social media tools make great virtual water coolers and excellent news filters. But now they are embedded in the political process – from channeling the flow of conversation to locating your local polling place – to the degree that they possess, ostensibly, a civic value as well. And the more synonymous they become with important social practices like this, the more social value they accumulate.

All good marketing is social. Good social media marketers position themselves where relevant conversations take place, and then, they make themselves useful. Whether it is relevant content curation, wicked insight, a good laugh, or a great, crowd-sourced discount–value leads to engagement and social sharing. As a tactic, a cultural or social event is an excellent way to engage with publics both broad and niche at a well-planned point in time, as long as it is relevant. It can be something as simple as moderating a #chat for the conference you’re presenting at, to bigger and bolder initiatives like creating an app that aggregates content around an event, a la Twitter’s NYC Fashionweek microsite. Whatever it is, it should enhance – not interrupt – the user’s engagement with that particular event, while reinforcing the relevance and value of your own brand.

As for the election results, the Republicans took the House, but the 2nd biggest winner may have been Twitter. It emerged as the most useful social media tool for politics, from discussion and reporting, to public relations. Promoted tweets will now be all the more relevant to news organizations who want to be on top of the discussion during breaking news events. And as for the political news junkies, well, they’ve been on the bandwagon for a while now.

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