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Women come in first when it comes to digital dialogue

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Cartney McCracken Cartney McCracken

Cartney McCracken is a Charleston native and founding member of Washington, D.C.-based Control Point Group, which works to develop successful strategies for political campaigns. Before joining Control Point Group, McCracken worked for Rainmaker Media where she served as communications adviser for several statewide races. She is a graduate of West Virginia University. 

Social media's role in the political process took a giant leap forward for womankind when it was used as a planning mechanism late last month for Texas State Sen. Wendy Davis' filibuster. The senator tweeted to her followers asking for them to share their stories with her so she could tell them as part of her filibuster from the Senate floor. The 11-hour event that took place on the floor of the Texas State Senate chamber would not have had the eyes of women (and men) glued to their laptops, tablets and smartphones across the nation if it wasn't for social media.   

After all, our nation has opened the digital dialogue and encouraged open online discussions between elected officials and constituents, but several politicians are still pretty darn scared of the social sphere. Even worse, many of them don't see the why they need a Twitter or Facebook account: "Are people in my district really online?"  

Can you guess the gender of the majority of candidates and elected officials that fall into this category? Men. (No offense, guys, but I wasn't surprised.) Earlier this year, the Pew Research Center published a report that said not only are women more likely than men to use social media, women actually dominate, by percentage, on almost all social networking sites.  

While women have made great strides in the political arena, the belief (and sadly, the truth) continues to be that we keep bumping our hair-sprayed heads against this annoying glass ceiling. Thanks to the power of digital dialogue that social media provides, we're breaking through faster than ever. Can you hear the shattered glass crunch beneath our heels? I love that sound!  

Ronni Marie Abney of the University of California and Rolfe Daus Peterson of Mercyhurst College studied down-ticket races in California and found that "voters are, if anything, biased in favor of women."  

Social media tends to favor outsiders and newcomers to the political arena. As more and more women across our nation are running for office, they are embracing this conversational platform as a critical means of voter outreach. Females seeking office are tweeting and posting on Facebook about their positions on issues and educating voters about the importance of being involved in the process — and, ladies, it's working to our advantage.  

My friend and top D.C. social media strategy consultant Lovisa Williams said, "Women are culturally trained to nurture people. Women tend to be the ones who talk about how to build relationships. These same skills that they use personally can be applied for great success professionally. After all, social media at its core is all about relationship building. Women clearly have the advantage here." 

Female politicians have an advantage right out of the gate when it comes to social media because women tend to be viewed as more authentic than men. The authenticity factor is critical for effective online conversations, and women are come in first place for using social media the way it's intended to be used — as a conversational platform. Younger women especially are more likely to engage with voters via social media because they're used to using these tools. The majority of male politicians (I'm not saying all male politicians, just the majority), however, use social media as an additional broadcast platform and just post press releases. If all I wanted to do is read your press release, I'll check the newspaper.