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In Possible Bid To Woo Younger Voters, Feingold Turns To Tumblr

Sites Like Tumblr Are Geared Toward Engagement, Not Fundraising, Says UW Professor

By
Erik Lorenzsonn/WPR

While social media web sites have been a staple in political races for more than a decade, candidates like Russ Feingold are expanding their digital repertoires with an eye toward attracting younger voters.

Feingold, a Democrat who’s running for U.S. Senate against incumbent Sen. Ron Johnson, launched a Tumblr page this week filled with photos and videos tracking his campaign stops around the state. There are no fundraising requests on the site, and no mention of his position on the issues in the race.

University of Wisconsin-Madison journalism professor Michael Wagner said the goal of sites like this is simply to engage young voters.

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“It does signal: ‘I’ve been to these places. Here’s where I’m going next. See all the different people I’m engaging with. See how new and fresh and modern this is. It’s not the same old thing.’ These are the kinds of things a page like this is intended to communicate,” said Wagner.

Both Johnson and Feingold have Twitter and Facebook pages. Johnson, however, has yet to venture into the world of Tumblr.

Wagner said it’s early in the race, making it hard to gauge how effective either candidate has been in using social media to build their campaign. He said it’s logical for Feingold, as a challenger, to be seeking new formats for reaching voters early in an effort to overcome the advantage incumbents have in terms of name recognition.

But Wagner also said the challenge with such efforts is to keep the postings current, especially with Tumblr, which attracts younger people who he said are much more “now-oriented.” Wagner also said there’s a downside to pages like Feingold’s new Tumblr page, which tracks where he’s traveling around the state. He said there’s a risk that people will notice that the candidate visits some communities more often than others.

“You can imagine somebody saying, ‘You came to our county once. You’ve been to this other county seven or eight times. What about us?’” said Wagner.

The fact that campaigns can track web traffic to their social media sites offers an important advantage: It gives candidates a way to measure their support in page views, instead of just in campaign contributions.

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