Politics is going visual

Another trend to keep an eye on: the increasing emphasis on sharable visual content such as photos and infographics. In part, this is being driven by the new Facebook “Timeline” layout, which puts a premium on strong visual content.

It literally starts at the top. As Steve Kleine of the social media monitoring firm Ensomo described recently when talking about the large graphic at the top of every Timeline page, “The cover photo is a perfect place to put a powerful image that communicates what the candidate or politician is all about.”

This opportunity continues through the remainder of the Timeline layout, which features content by year. Steve points out that “being able to tell a politician’s story in such a stunningly visual way will really help voters and constituents connect with them.” This is assuming they take advantage of it. Besides the new Timeline, also note that Facebook now gives extra “legs” to visual-heavy content, ranking it higher on the default landing pages of users.

Another development driving the use of images is the relatively new social site Pinterest. As Beth Becker wrote recently, “Pinterest is a platform that maximizes the potential of visual impact to move people to action. It’s organized by boards subdivided into bulletin boards. Each bulletin board is composed of pictures that a user can either pin from the web or upload from your desktop. Every picture can be commented on, and more importantly from a social perspective, re-pinned to other people’s bulletin boards.”

Pinterest currently has one million plus monthly users, and its devotees tend to spend a lot of time on the site. It’s currently getting hyped in digital communications circles, which means it could become widely popular—or it could flame out. Regardless, the combination of large computer monitors, tablet computers and widespread broadband means that a more visual Internet is likely to stick around.

2012’s Unsung hero: Data

Speaking of data, it’s almost inescapable in any meaningful discussion of online politics in 2012. In previous issues of C&E we’ve already seen its importance for field organizing, campaigning in a social digital environment, Internet advertising and, well, just about every aspect of a modern campaign.

As recently as March of this year, the Obama campaign was hiring state level data managers. From a recent job posting for New Mexico: “The Data Director will work on all aspects of data programs including data analysis and handling, reporting, auditing, training, and administering online tools.”

Pollsters, fundraisers and direct mail experts have long been obsessed with data; now its importance is becoming obvious to people in almost every area of political communications and organizing. This is a trend to watch. 

Colin Delany is founder and editor of the award winning Epolitics.com, a fifteen-year veteran of online politics and a perpetual skeptic. See something interesting? Send him a pitch at cpd@epolitics.com

Also in Technology Bytes this issue: Can a machine built for a messiah reelect a man?

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