You might consider it a simple mistake, but I think social media manager Eric Fehrnstrom, adviser to Scott Brown and Mitt Romney, knew exactly what he was doing when created a fake Twitter account to mock Brown’s opponent, Alan Khazei.
The problem is, some people who are supposed to understand social media really don’t understand it at all. They call themselves social media professionals, but really they clowns disguised as professionals who act in ways which are not only unpredictable but also damaging to their own clients.
The @crazykhazei account only had about 100 or so Followers when Fehrnstrom was found out so it’s not as if he had time to do the man any damage. The impact on Scott Brown, however, is much more far reaching. Brown looks like an ass thanks to the activity of a social media manager who acted recklessly.
I feel like a broken record this week, but I am going to say it once again: social media is NOT a weapon. If you try to use it as a weapon, or treat it like a weapon, you will suffer the consequences.
Think how much good he could have done if Fehrnstrom had spent his time on Twitter engaging with voters, talking about Brown’s political record and the issues. Instead he wasted his time trying to tear down someone else. Not only did he waste his time he besmirched the record of his client.
Social media is a tool used to communicate a message. If that message is not carefully crafted, however, it may just come back to bite you in the end.
One of the greatest things about social media also can be the scariest thing about it. It gives everyone working on a campaign, from a 20-year-old intern to a lead strategist, a public-facing way to show their support. The result can be an army of campaign ambassadors amplifying messages and positions over and over again. However, Twitter also gives operatives a platform to engage in off-message bickering and attacks that can be easily recorded and turned into a story. If you’re a busy candidate, carefully trying to control your image day in and day out, this negativity can be a distraction and a big surprise.
I suspect Scott Brown didn’t know about @crazykhazei until it was too late. In fact, as he tries to defend his record and deflect attacks from the Bobblehead Brown campaign, I doubt Alan Khazei has really been on his radar.
With the simple mistake of tweeting from the wrong account, Eric Fehrnstrom has given Alan Khazei more airtime than he probably had during all of 2009’s special election. In a somewhat tenuous time, with no clear Democratic front-runner and when many candidates are either ramping up their campaigns or quietly slipping back into the shadows, this amount of media attention has achieved the exact opposite of what the CrazyKhazei account was trying to achieve — it’s given Khazei credibility in a very crowded field.
With only 124 followers, it’s doubtful that the tweets have had enough reach to do any real damage to Khazei’s image. This attempt to portray him as a detached, snarky ultra-liberal (besides showing that Fehrnstrom learned no lessons in satire from the fake Mayor Emmanuel Twitter account) only reflects badly on the Brown campaign’s priorities. And while the CrazyKhazei drama will eventually die off as serious campaigning ramps up, it does set a negative tone early on for a candidate who prided himself on staying positive and focused on issues the last time around.
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