Since I'm a photographer who regularly posts photographs on the photo-sharing site Flickr, I was interested in how the Democratic presidential candidates used Flickr, especially since there's been a lot of talk about the importance of social networking websites. While Flickr is known as a photo-sharing site, it also has social networking aspects, and so would seem to offer one more way for candidates to reach out. Last August, I posted about the three front-runners and their relationship to Flickr.
At the time, the Barack Obama site caught my eye because it focused mainly on photos of his supporters at events around the country, almost as if he had snapped them himself (though the camera data showed they came from many different cameras). It struck as a shrewd way for a candidate to connect with people -- by putting the spotlight on them. Especially as it's done with a kind of casual, snapshot esthetic. The photos simply have file numbers rather than titles, though they are tagged and put in sets by location.
The John Edwards site is the oldest, and a bit more fully developed. Photos are titled, many are captioned, and they are also tagged and sorted into geographic sets. Photos on the Edwards site look more professional and include more pictures of the candidate than Obama's does. But there are also some wonderful photos of supporters.
And Hillary Clinton? Well, she really doesn't have what seems to be an official site. What can I say? The only thing I could find that comes close seems to have been put up by a local Kansas group of Clinton supporters in March, 2006, and it has languished ever since, with no updates. Meanwhile, the Obama and Edwards camps have both uploaded thousands of additional photos since I wrote about this last August: Currently Obama has more than 12,000 images on his site, and Edwards has more than 5,000.
Since then, not much has changed. The Obama and Edwards have been actively using their sites, while Clinton still hasn't bothered to get one started. Obama's site contains more photos, while the Edwards site seems a bit more polished and slightly better organized. The main thing is that both candidates are using this new medium to reach out, and Clinton is not.
Also, in this age of user-generated content, Flickr users are also using Flickr to reach out to the candidates, by posting pictures they're taken relating to the candidates. Hillary trails here, too. Flickr users have posted 20,551 photos that show up in searches for "Barack Obama," 16,807 in searches for "John Edwards," and 11,116 in searches for "Hillary Clinton."
I'm not suggesting that most of America looks to Flickr for information on candidates. Obviously not. While it may be the best known photo sharing network, most people don't frequent photo sharing sites. Can you campaign without Flickr? Sure.
But it does seem to make a kind of proxy indicator of a campaign's interest in new communications technology, especially the sort of internet technology favored by younger people. Iowa demonstrated the importance of being on the right side of change and reaching out to young voters. You wonder if Hillary wouldn't be better served by getting rid of some of her expensive, "experienced" Democratic campaign consultants and replacing them with some kids who could help her come across better on the Internet.