Politics in the age of social networking

No, I’m not an Obama supporter. I’ve yet to make up my mind about candidate or party. But, I think business should be looking to the presidential campaigns to see innovation in action in social media. The elections are heating up on my social networks, and after reading the wsj’s excellent profile on the work that Facebook.com’s Chris Hughes is now doing on my.barackobama.com, I spent some time hanging out on MySpace and Facebook today. I’m now friends with all the presidential candidates I could find on MySpace. And I’ve downloaded Barack Obama’s application on Facebook. I’ll watch them carefully and report back.

Anyone keeping close tabs on this knows that while Obama might have established himself as forward thinking when it comes to the Web with his community driven site, he also angered a massive group of supporters when campaign reps forced 29 year-old paralegal Joe Anthony’s unofficial Obama MySpace group down. Accounts of what happened vary, but it seems Obama campaign officials were worried about not being able to control the group’s messaging as it gained virtual street cred in MySpace.

There’s the tension: campaigns are all about controlled messages and social media is all about shifting that control to the audiences. With an election fast approaching, campaigners are forced to work through rapid iterations of this process.

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