President Obama has been called the prince of social media, using Facebook and Twitter as his campaigning allies.
Now Obama is looking to partner with Facebook, using the social networking site as a way to directly reach voters, marked by yesterday’s town hall meeting broadcasted live on the site.
“This is the ultimate accolade of the emergence of Facebook,” said Peter Sealey, a business consultant who sat on Facebook’s advisory board back when the company had just 18 employees. “The president gets to talk directly to potential voters. Facebook gets incredible validation. It’s a win-win.”
However, political consultants and brand managers have warned politicians that aligning themselves with a brand is sometimes dangerous.
Remember Dick Cheney and Halliburton? George W. Bush and Enron? Or Hilary Clinton and Wal-Mart? None of these partnerships ended well.
Obama’s plan to align himself with Facebook is what political consultant Chris Lehane calls, “political product placement” – with the president seeking to leverage Silicon Valley’s innovation, future, entrepreneur brand and the companies seeking to benefit from being associated with the most powerful office of the most powerful country.
“Of course,” Lehane said, “the perils of such a mutual leveraging for the president is if a company does something that turns it into an Enron or BP and for the companies if they become defined as partisan in the way Halliburton or Koch was closely linked to the Bush White House and Republican Party.”
Although having a president associated with your brand or company is clearly a prestigious thing for any company, many analysts argue that perhaps it’s better to stay non-partisan rather than associating with one particular party.
Facebook said “We’re honored that President Obama will be visiting [us] and will be using our platform to communicate directly with an international audience. More broadly, we’re heartened that political figures are using Facebook to organize and reach people in a direct, personal, simple way that was unimaginable a decade ago.”
Facebook has indeed had visits from President George W. Bush and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, as well as various other republicans and democrats alike. Facebook says it is “happy to consider other types of non-fundraising visits to Facebook headquarters by political candidates, elected and government officials.”
Although Facebook has ties to both political sides, the relationship with Obama is strong.
Sam Singer, president of the reputation and issues-management firm Singer Associates, said Facebook should host GOP presidential contenders as part of a “self-imposed fairness doctrine.”