Unless you watched the Republican debates in Iowa on Saturday, it’s likely that the only thing you’ve heard about them is that Mitt Romney bet Rick Perry $10,000 that the Texas governor had some of his facts wrong.
Whether you thought the bet was what Romney himself called “an outrageous number to answer an outrageous charge,” or what his opponents are painting as a tone-deaf comment during a time of high unemployment, one thing is for sure: the rapid response from the Democrats set a new standard for social media strategy in the 2012 campaign.
Before the debate was over, the Democratic National Committee had sent an email about the $10,000 bet to reporters and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee promoted the hashtag #What10kBuys (mortgage payments, tuition were just some of the more serious tweets). Within a half hour of the end of the debate, according to Twitter, the hashtag was the most popular not just in Iowa or the U.S., but around the world. And by Monday, the story was already framed, as the Romney camp struggled to retell it.
It’s just as I’ve been saying all along – one of the most important things that will matter in this Twitter election is speed. And there are many lessons for business here as well. You have to get to the story first before someone else tells that story for you.
In this ultra fast media environment, it’s no longer the gaffe itself that will make or break campaigns or sink candidates – it’s going to come down to who can tell that story first and make it relevant to the American voter.