Sean Parker didn’t go far enough

Sean Parker and Shervin Pishevar on stage at Le Web '11At Le Web last week in Paris, Sean Parker predicted that the outcome of the 2012 US elections would be determined by social media.

I think he’s right. But what’s more, I think that next year’s election season will be the first in which face-to-face live video on the web will play a role in determining the outcome of some races.

In an increasingly online world, the web has provided new ways for candidates to reach voters in their constituencies. Candidates can communicate policy, deliver key messages on-demand, and reach out to campaign supporters. But the focus has been predominantly one-way – from candidate to constituent.

With the 2008 elections, we started to see information flowing in the other direction. Through simple messaging and polling mechanisms, constituents could start to communicate back to the candidates.

At TokBox, we call this one-and-a-half-way communication. On the surface, it certainly seems like two-way communication. But in reality, it’s only a pale imitation, because it’s an uneven playing field. It’s like texting at Oprah while she talks to an audience through a live stream – sure it’s better than just watching, but it’s not like being on stage with her.

In 2012, for the first time, candidates can step it up a notch to full two-way communication on the web.

Large-scale face-to-face video will let them reach out and interact with their constituents, no matter where they are located. Travel time no longer needs to be a factor preventing them from reaching far-flung voters. Instead, with easy-to-use OpenTok-powered face-to-face video tools, candidates can engage directly with voters, holding hyperlocal town halls, feedback sessions, and fundraising meetups every night of the campaign.

Over the last week, we’ve been blogging about TokShow, an OpenTok plug-and-play app that musicians have been using to connect with their fans in new and exciting ways. But TokShow isn’t just for musicians and other celebrities.

TokShow is ready-made for politicians and other candidates for office — your district attorney, your senator, your candidate for president. TokShow is a powerful plug-and-play application for reaching out to, engaging with, and interacting with voters and other constituents. OpenTok’s ability to syndicate video across a variety of web sites (as demonstrated recently on the Scotty McCreery TokShow) means that voters can find candidates where they want to — on the candidate’s web site, on the local party site, or even at the national level. And as election season unfolds, TokShow will reach larger and larger audiences, ready for the national stage.

There’s a saying that all politics is local. And every candidate for office knows that there is no substitute for meeting voters face to face. For incumbents, the business of governing can keep them away from their electorate in an increasingly competitive election year. And short of inventing a Star Trek transporter device, that’s a problem.

With TokShow, the future arrives in time for the 2012 elections. Whether a candidate is working in Washington or the state capital, or even on the road — they can still hold hyperlocal, face-to-face town halls every night of the week. Reach constituents, interact with voters, engage with your audience.

Face to face is the future of the web. For politics, the future is now.