This is a hypothetical discussion of one element of social media that I think will have the greatest impact this year.
On the Tuesday after Labour announced their Best Start policy for people with children under 3 David Cunliffe was stopped by a media pack on his way to caucus, as is normal. He was asked a number of questions during it, you can see the stand up here, towards the end it was obvious he was getting annoyed at the questioning by Patrick Gower and Barry Soper. David Cunliffe finishes it by heading off quickly to caucus. Now the way he left doesn’t look like a huge story. However Patrick sent the following tweet.
This was sent within a short while of the stand up, and while David Cunliffe was in Caucus. In the past, reporting of something like this would have had to waited until the lunch time news at best, or the 6pm news that night. This would have given the Leader and their office the chance to prepare counter stories/explanations as to what happened. However Social media allowed Patrick to get the story out there, with his own take on it, before David had most likely even started the caucus meeting.
Now this ability to short cut the news cycle doesn’t just play into the hands of the media. If used correctly, or used with the intent to deceive, Social media allows a story to get out and get moving before those involved are aware of it getting out there.
I believe this ability to short cut the media cycle, and push a story or view point out there before the other people involved have the ability to prepare to counter it, or enter the debate. The media traditionally seek comment from all involved before reporting it. Now, social media allows them, in fact in some ways forces them, to report individual parts of the story separately. There is chance that a single story or tweet can be picked up and spread widely before any of the PR people can respond.
Please be clear, I am not saying this is a bad thing, I am just saying it is something that needs to be understood and prepared for by those involved in the campaign. There is a responsibility on the media’s behalf to make sure that they don’t misuse this feature of social media.