We learned in 2008 the importance of social media to elections, especially for the presidential race. This year, there are even more social media outlets than we had four years ago.
Ways to use the power of these tools to cover your local and national elections:
-- Google has introduced some resources at http://www.google.com/elections/ed/us, including links to national candidates' Google+ profiles, YouTube and AP coverage, an election year calendar and a journalist toolkit, with info on using different social resources to cover candidate trends. This dashboard is pictured above.
-- TechPresident.com has a great article and data on social media specifically on the GOP race.
-- Bluefin Labs offers social media analysis tied to TV events, such as shows, debates and primary news coverage. Their free dashboard shows the top trending shows on certain dates, as well as breakdowns by a few different audiences, such as Diet Coke advocates and parents.
-- In November I attended a NewsU webinar on social media and the 2012 elections, hosted by Poynter's Butch Ward. He advised monitoring different social mediums to see public conversation -- people use social media to make decisions, such as in elections. He also mentioned tools like Topsy, a Twitter archive, LinkedIn, which more people are using now for groups and networking, and Storify.
The webinar is still available, and costs $10. Check out that and more NewsU webinars on covering the election.
-- Story idea: Who among your local candidate posts to his or her own Facebook or Twitter page, and who has aides do it? This type of information is invaluable as voters try to determine what they can believe about candidates -- social media doesn't have to be credited with a "paid for by" or "I approved this message" line as advertisements do.
-- Keep an eye on these sites for more election social media tools as they develop and catch fire: Mashable, TechCrunch, Search Engine Land, Alltop (an aggregate site), Nieman Journalism Lab and Online News Association.