Our view: Candidates should seek students’ social media help

— Just as important as knowing where your candidate stands on issues important to you is knowing how, and where, to find that information.

In compiling information for our feature story this week, it became clear that, in most cases, candidates either embrace social media and the Internet to promote their campaigns, or they shy away from it completely; the gray area in between is filled with seemingly inactive Facebook accounts that were probably established with good intentions but haven’t been updated in months or years.

We spoke to several candidates who agreed there was a benefit to “being online,” but just couldn’t seem to find the time or the energy to learn, then implement, new tech.

As Bob Andrews, who is running for county legislature, put it: he’s juggling two social media accounts, a website and going door-to-door, along with his full-time job and family obligations. It’s easy to see how setting up a Facebook account for a school board campaign might not register as a necessity for most candidates. And yet, social media might be the first (and sometimes only) method younger voters will use to find out more about a political race or candidate.

We see a glaring opportunity here: link up local candidates with area college students. The majority of students in college today have grown up communicating with their peers in a technologically savvy way, from texting to tweeting and all platforms in between. Employers want to see that entry-level workers have a firm grasp on using social media, particularly in fundraising, marketing and communications fields, so students should be eager to get some first-hand experience in using Facebook for something other than posting party pics (which will later be deleted when the job search begins).

And many candidates, while they have at least a vague appreciate for social media, can’t justify spending the time learning about, then maintaining, an active Facebook and Twitter presence.

This could be a win-win. Built-in campaign experience for students, and a boost in workforce and publicity for local candidates. And, most importantly, an emphasis on reaching out to younger voters (though not exclusively).

Make that a win-win-win.

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