Sean Parker: “This Election, Social Media Will Determine The Outcome”

Every time Sean Parker goes onstage, someone asks him the inevitable question, “Where is the social web going.” Today at Le Web, where he was interviewed alongside VC Shervin Pishevar by TechCrunch’s Alexia Tsotsis, he decided to talk about politics. “I don’t think politics have been figured out yet,” he says.

The Obama campaign created financial relationships with voters online but, not deeper political relationships. Parker thinks that will change in 2012. “This election, social media will determine the outcome,” he predicts.

Wait. Didn’t it determine the last election? Obama’s victory in the last U.S. presidential election is often attributed to his mastery of Web campaigning and social media. After all, Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes ran the Obama campaign’s social media efforts. But Parker, who himself was the first president of Facebook, says “a lot of it was a mythology. In truth the social media elements of the Obama campaign, while extremely innovative, did not produce a lot of results. Obama did raise hundreds of millions online, but not through social media.” Rather, it was through old-fashioned mailing lists and field outreach that pushed people online to make that final donation.

In his view, social media can trump other forms of political outreach (mass mailings, canvassing, political rallies). “At the end of the day,” he concludes, “money is just a proxy for votes. That is what makes politics so vulnerable to social media. Social media can deliver a relationship much more effectively than these field techniques.”