Online Rapid Response to the State of the Union

Hear that rustling and rumbling in the background? That’s the sound of thousands of activists, journalists, bloggers and advocacy groups getting ready to spin tonight’s State of the Union address as it happens, live and online. The “traditional” (broadcast-era) way to respond to the speech was quite limited — a few talking heads and politicos would take to the airwaves, while advocates would spew out press releases and statements in the hopes of ending up in the next day’s coverage of the affair.

Nowadays, we get to join in DURING the speech, and the fun isn’t constrained to the handful of people with access to a television camera or a reporter’s notebook — Twitter, Facebook and blogs will play host to an extended conversation involving thousands of us scattered across the country. The goal? To get noticed, of course, but also to influence the discussion as it occurs, and ultimately to color the final political conventional wisdom about the Meaning Of The Night.

It’s part of a much longer process, naturally, since activists, industry groups and nonprofits have been working for weeks to make sure that their issues appear in the President’s speech in just the “right” way (or not at all), and the spin certainly won’t stop tonight (besides the cable-news and blog analysis, the White House itself will be taking questions online after the speech). But the immediate, as-it’s-happening nature of the digital discussion is something new to politics, and I’d argue that it’s one of the most positive effects of in-the-moment tools like Twitter. Of course, luck favors the prepared mind, and plenty of “live” tweets (and the resources they link to) will be prepared in advance for use at the appropriate times, hoping that the right words or the right messages will be picked up by live-bloggers, aggregators or random Tweeters and spread far and wide.

One particularly interesting live-SOTU experiment? An attempt to judge the public reaction to the speech by analyzing social media posts on the fly, alongside the impressions of people using a live-polling application on their cell phones. Cool idea! I’ll be very curious to see the outcome.

And if you’d like to see the results of a little bit of all of that communications planning, the fine organization for which I work (The National Women’s Law Center) will be live-tweeting responses to the speech tonight, which I’ll supplement with a few specials over on the @epolitics feed. Swing on by! Should be a hoot all around, and I’ll “see” you there.


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