Republican National Convention filled with social media 'historic firsts'

mvalverde@bradenton.comAugust 25, 2012 

MANATEE -- The Manatee County Republican Party has more than 1,000 followers and 353 people like it -- well, that is strictly talking about Twitter and Facebook numbers as of Friday. Cognizant of the increasing presence of social media, local delegates attending the Republican National Convention in Tampa next week say they will update Manatee County residents on the happenings at the convention via social media platforms.

"We'll be using Facebook and Twitter as best as we

can," sad Kathleen King, chairwoman of the Republican Party of Manatee County and an at large delegate who will be attending the convention. "Social media is now an integral part of the election process, in business and our everyday lives."

Photos and text updates will be periodically posted on the party's Twitter and Facebook pages.

"There's multiple ways for people to follow. ... It's important because it's instantaneous now," she said.

Bradenton Herald reporters, photographers and editors will also be using social media throughout the week from the convention, tweeting @BradentonHerald and on their own Twitter with the hashtag #RNC2012, updating Bradenton.com and an RNC blog and following on Facebook.

The county's Republican Party, or @ManateeGOParty as it's known on Twitter, interacts with citizens, candidates, elected officials, state and national parties, King said. On Twitter, users can post 140-character messages at a time. Photos and videos can also be uploaded to the Internet site. Users can "follow" accounts and get live updates from other users.

Twitter and Facebook are both free to use.

Social media users can search for "Manatee County Republican Party" on Facebook to find updates on speeches and events happening during the convention, King said.

"It will give them insight into what's happening so that they can be inside the convention and be part of the process," said King. "There will be commentary on what they're saying on some of the speeches to give the public and fellow Republicans a sense of the convention so that they can feel they're part of the convention, and take ownership."

This convention will feature four main social media components, said Melissa Sellers, director of regional media for the Republican National Convention. Speeches will be streamed live on YouTube and there will be a partnership with Google to amplify coverage with exclusive behind-the-scenes content. Delegates and participants can also go to a "conversation room" where there will be computers and cameras available to share information via Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Skype, a video communication application.

"It's historic to be able to use so many different social media channels and technological avenues to be able to communicate Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan's message of change to America and vision for a better future," said Sellers. "Whether you are here in Tampa or anywhere across the country, this gives them a chance to communicate. ... These are historic firsts."

A Tampa 2012 application is also available at no cost for smartphones users. Through the application people can check schedules, lists of speakers and program line-ups, and use Google maps to find the locations of events, Sellers said.

Four delegates are heading to the convention from the Manatee County area -- two representatives from the 13th congressional district, an at-large alternate delegate, and herself.

"This is a great time for people in the Tampa Bay area, Manatee County and Bradenton," King said. "The world will be watching."

The Republican National Convention is scheduled from Aug. 27-30.

John Colon, the alternate delegate, said he had not received convention information by regular mail.

"Everything is online, all the schedules and events. ... We are not getting anything by mail," Colon said.

Colon attended conventions in 2004 and 2008, he said, and this is the first time there's been heavy emphasis on electronic communication and social media platforms.

"We are actually calling it a 'Convention Without Walls'," he said. "This will bring a lot of people into it."

Colon will be posting photos on Facebook of himself and other people at different events, he said.

"People will be interested to see who's there attending," Colon said.

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will be at one of the events Colon is attending.

"I'll post as much stuff as I can," said Colon. "There are many people who would like to participate but can't. This gives access to people who physically can't be there."

To follow the Herald staff's tweets, find them on www.bradenton.com/twitter or "like" us on www.Facebook.com/BradentonHeraldNews.

For links to the county GOP's social media sites visit www.manateerepublicanparty.com. For links to the convention's official social sites visit www.gopconvention2012.com. For links to John Colon's Facebook page visit www.johnacolon.com.

Miriam Valverde, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7024. Follow her on Twitter @MiriamValverde.

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