The Republican National Convention got off to a waterlogged start on Monday and despite the fact that there were few official events - the convention convened and was adjourned minutes later - the Tampa Convention Center was abuzz with political celebrities, social networks and plenty of media.
The social networks are out in force here at the RNC, indicating a shift from reflecting to trying to direct the political conversation. And there are obvious reasons why. Andrew Fitzgerald, who is a part of Twitter's Content and Programming Team, said that they have seen a huge upswing in the platform's footprint from four years ago.
"On Sunday," he said, the the day before the official start of this event, "more tweets were sent about this convention than in 2008 altogether."
To try to take advantage of this upswing in conversation, Twitter is doing what it already does best - collating the current conversation in one place, this year at #GOP2012, where they are collecting photos, related tweets and the insider conversation from the Tampa Convention Center and its environs. But they're also branching out into tracking the candidates' social impact.
With The Twitter Political Index, they're working with a Republican and Democratic polling firm and the search engine Topsy to track both the volume of tweets about Mitt Romney and President Obama, but also the "sentiment," which uses the types of words around the candidates name to sort it into a positive or negative mention. It's basically polling by way of Twitter, but it tracks a new audience of Tweeters who might not otherwise be in a polling sample field.
Google is also at the RNC, heavily pushing their Google+ live hangout concept. It's hard to exaggerate how much of a presnce Google is claiming - they've got a lounge with primary colored pods where you can check out storm/crisis coverage, send messages to the troops, and . It also doesn't hurt that there's faux beechwood flooring and free lattes.