Youth Voter Group Chose Facebook Before Twitter

Generation Opportunity aims to inspire more young people to get involved in the political process, but the social media-minded group has yet to get on Twitter. That should change this week, said Paul Conway, president of the less than two-year-old nonprofit and nonpartisan group.

“We’ll be rolling out with some additional capacity,” said Conway about Twitter, noting the organization’s communications team will lead the Twitter presence.

Generation Opportunity – or GO – was influenced by President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign and seeks grassroots support through social media. Until now, however, Facebook has been the group’s main platform for disseminating messages and corralling supporters. GO created a series of themed Facebook pages as part of its original mission to “connect with a million young people,” said Conway. By “young,” GO means people aged 18-29.

“We decided to move on [the Facebook] platform first,” said Conway, suggesting that the target audience spends more time there than elsewhere online.

Themed pages include ones called “Being American by GO,” “The Constitution by GO,” and “Gas Prices Are Too Damn High” – reminiscent of Jimmy McMillan’s The Rent Is Too Damn High Party he popularized during his run for New York governor in 2010. Though GO is nonpartisan, the “Lower Taxes by GO” and “We Like Small Government” pages could be construed as right- leaning. The Being American and The Constitution pages have generated the largest followings, with 1.5 million and 1 million likes, respectively.

GO’s principles are “not conservative,” said Conway, stating that the organization wants to create greater opportunities for all Americans and defend individual freedoms. The group supports smaller government “from the perspective of a limited amount of interference if you actually wanted to go out and be entrepreneurial,” he said.

“The key for us on Facebook is…there is an absolute demand for content and given our team’s insistence on making sure things are accurate, everything we post on Facebook is sourced,” said Conway, who served as chief of staff for the Office of the Federal Coordinator for Gulf Coast Rebuilding at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security under Presidents George W. Bush and Obama.

Messaging on many of the group’s Facebook pages deals with high unemployment rates and concerns about the Affordable Care Act. “At least 64,000 college students in North Carolina, which is about a third of all students enrolled in public universities in North Carolina, will see ‘substantial’ increases in the cost of their health insurance this year due to President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, according to Tom Ross, President of the University of North Carolina school system,” noted a recent post.

Posts related to jobs and the economy resonate especially well with people between the ages of 22 and 27, said Conway, adding that 18-24-year-olds engage more with content about jobs and student loan interest rates.

The group does some advertising on Facebook from time to time. “We’ve used it to capture interest on different issues,” said Conway. Of course, Facebook is also a platform for identifying activists and encouraging them to attend in-person events.

Why the wait to move to Twitter? Conway said the group wanted to ensure it had “the skills and team resources to be able to apply fully and to use it well.”

The soon-to-launch Twitter account had yet to be named when ClickZ spoke with Conway on Friday. He did have a sense of what to expect for GO on Twitter, though, noting initial followers will be comprised of its activist network along with members of the media and opinion-makers. Posts will feature links to news stories, polling data, and links to the group’s training publications about blogging and talk radio call-in effectiveness.

“We see it as a combined tool to highlight things people might have missed,” said Conway of Twitter.

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