So says a just-released Politico article: This was the year social media was expected to transform the national conventions, similar to how it beefed up the Summer Olympics. However, it seemed both Charlotte and Tampa’s social media sphere encountered technical problems, drew tiny audiences or was ineffectual.
Excerpts from the Politico article:
Many of Google’s video “hangouts” were riddled with sound problems. The news-sharing site Reddit crashed while hosting President Barack Obama’s question-and-answer session. YouTube shut off public access to video of the DNC’s first night — including Michelle Obama’s speech — for nearly 12 hours. Facebook’s efforts to get the thousands of RNC attendees to identify themselves in a high-def photo from the hall drew only 75 participants.
Social media no doubt enjoyed dramatic successes over the past fortnight, with Twitter and Facebook clearly firming up their places as reliable go-to spaces for online sharing and even political organizing. Google certainly maintained its dominance in Internet search and its subsidiary, YouTube, knows few rivals when it comes to posting and viewing videos.
But snafus and misfires abounded, some more serious than others, to remind us that 2012 is part of a transition era rather than an accurate depiction of the ultimate technological destination.
Top of the screw-up heap: Visitors to the Democratic National Convention’s own website could not play back any of Tuesday’s proceedings for many hours. The DNC’s live stream was hosted by YouTube in a special arrangement.
Users who wanted to scroll back to see the first lady’s much-lauded talk encountered various error messages indicating that the material had been blocked because of copyright issues.
“After Tuesday’s live stream ended, YouTube briefly showed an incorrect error message on the page hosting the completed live stream instead of the standard ‘This event is complete’ message,” according to a statement from a Google spokesperson.
Yet as of late morning on Wednesday, users continued to find that attempts to play the video yielded a message with a frown-face reporting the content they sought to view was “private.” The trouble was never fully explained.
Google+ Hangouts, a recordable online video conference venue heavily promoted at the RNC and DNC, also ran into some challenges. The search company built special booths at both conventions from which politicians, journalists and others could hold live chats with non-attendees scattered across the country. Many outlets, including C-SPAN and The Daily Beast, used Hangouts to create videos for their sites, too.
Video and audio quality was wildly inconsistent and unreliable in many cases. C-SPAN spokesman Howard Mortman, whose network conducted several Hangouts, praised the service for the convenience and cost savings it offers — no studio or satellite arrangements needed — but acknowledged there were downsides.
“We had a discussion with the journalist Rachel Sklar and Julie Moos of Poynter that had those lighting and glitchy audio technical issues and we showed parts of it on the air,” Mortman told the paper. “That’s Google’s technology. It will get better.”
Among the biggest surprises was that up-and-comer Reddit crashed while hosting Obama on Aug. 29 for a live chat. Reddit general manager Erik Martin said they “wish it had gone better but considering the short notice, it’s an amazing feat that a social data-heavy site with only 20 employees was able to handle it at all. We are working on improving bottlenecks in our infrastructure that should make the site faster overall and especially [during] massive events like this.”
Twitter was quick after Obama’s Thursday night speech to announce “a new record political moment” after logging 52,757 DNC-related tweets per minute during Obama’s acceptance speech. And YouTube eagerly proclaimed it counted more than 2.5 million views of convention-related material during the GOP event for a total of 300,000 hours of video watched.
Yet YouTube clearly remains a supplement to the still-dominant audience aggregator that is television. The president’s speech on Thursday peaked at 178,000, a big number for the Web but a sliver of the millions who watch even the low-rated TV shows.
Former President Bill Clinton’s stem-winder, for instance, drew a top live YouTube audience of 78,000 on Wednesday. Meanwhile, more than 25.1 million were watching on TV, Nielsen reported.
Both conventions took all-of-the-above approaches to technology, creating accounts on every platform available. In the end, then, it was easy to see what worked and what turned out ineffectual. The DNC posted the same message at the same time asking its Facebook fans and its Google+ followers to relate their favorite moments from Tuesday’s convention proceedings; the call drew 200 Facebook responses but just six on Google+.
–There was precious little activity on Pinterest, Flickr or LinkedIn. A notable exception: The DNC posted on Flickr shot of Obama cuddling with his daughters as they watched the first lady’s speech from the White House that has drawn more than 186,000 views. A more typical Flickr tally for the DNC, though, was the 2,650 total views for a set of 176 photos posted on Wednesday night.
–Foursquare had a surprisingly good fortnight. The here-I-am location-based smartphone app paired up with Time magazine for special RNC and DNC programs in which politicians and Time journalists kept users apprised of where they were. Users who checked in on the app while visiting certain locations in the convention cities would earn a special RNC or DNC-related “badge,” an online collectible of sorts. Even Obama — or a staffer on his behalf — checked in, albeit on Thursday, a few hours before his acceptance speech.
RBR-TVBR observation: Social media at major events like this is here to stay. Many of the technical glitches noted will likely be resolved via a learning curve. What’s interesting at this point is the DNC and RNC allowed us all to see which social media is more applicable to events like these, and which ones will be the most marketable to advertisers.