Meet Katie Harbath. Meet Mindy Finn.
Katie is an Associate Manager at Facebook and Mindy works for Twitter.
Two of social media’s leading ladies, Harbath and Finn have been proven industry experts for years. They’re also a couple of the nicest people you’ll meet in DC.
Before their work at Facebook and Twitter, Katie and Mindy worked together at the RNC. Afterwards, they went their separate ways, each to head up digital operations for top presidential contenders. Katie worked for Mayor Rudy Giuliani while Mindy headed to Team Romney. Years later, they’re still on different teams, but have enormous respect for each other.
With Facebook and Twitter at full-force this election cycle, we figured we’d reunite the two for a social media showdown.
Editor’s note: Stay posted for our next Happy Hour where Harbath & Finn will both be hosts.
1. Social media played a large role in the 2008 election cycle, but how has it helped shape the races this year?
Katie: Both Facebook and Twitter’s platforms are completely different this cycle. For the first time, social is baked into everything the campaigns are doing. Twitter has been tremendous for rapid response and getting real time updates not only from the campaigns, but the reporters covering them. On Facebook, or through Facebook apps on the candidates’ websites, people are able to see what their friends care about and interact with them whether they live next door or are across the country.
Mindy: Speaking for Twitter, we were barely a factor in the 2008 election. Fast forward a couple of years, and we now have widespread Twitter adoption by political campaigns, operatives, issue advocacy groups and news organizations. This is evidenced by the enormous spikes in conversation on Twitter during key campaign events such as the State of the Union, debates and the conventions — more tweets were sent on the first night of the Republican National Convention than during all nights of the 2008 conventions combined.
With the enormous volume of conversation, and active tweeting by influentials, Twitter at times drives the conversation around issues and breaking news.
Before this cycle, we talked about “rapid response;” on Twitter, we now see instant response. The spin room of yesteryear doesn’t have the same impact when the narrative is being set in real-time by a combination of professional journalists and citizens across the country. And Twitter has helped connect voters to the campaigns in a way we have never seen, giving them a virtual “front row” seat to the campaign action from the local to the national level.
2. What is the coolest thing about your job?
K: I get to meet and work with some really smart people. On my first day at Facebook, I realized just about everyone I worked with at headquarters was younger than me and had already built some really amazing stuff that we all use everyday.
M: The people. I work with some of the most innovative, talented people in tech and media. Not only can they pull of ninja feats in data and technology, but also they have varied talents from Olympic-level swimming to having played in a chart-topping band to magic. Also, when you hear from people who say that Twitter changed their life and their country for the better, that’s cool.
3. Besides being harassed by friends and family for help, how has your life changed since you started at Facebook/Twitter?
K: I’m amazed daily at what Facebook employees are working on to help people connect and share. It’s exciting to leverage these new tools and features to help campaigns connect in an authentic and meaningful way with potential voters.
M: Well, I had a baby since I started at Twitter, so let me count the ways … But seriously, in campaign politics, the world I came from, there is little regard for your time or your life outside of work. One thing I appreciate about Silicon Valley culture is that it values a work hard, play hard approach. Efficiency, focus and priority-setting are skills that are taught and become ingrained so you can get more done and still have time to eat dinner. Also, I tweet less. It’s ironic, but I’m so busy working with others on their Twitter strategy that it leaves little time for mine. Have you ever heard that phrase, “The shoemaker’s children have no shoes.”
4. College graduates love digital media. What kind of advice would you give to a recent graduate trying to break into the digital space?
K: Stop talking and just start building things. People in the digital arena respond to seeing what you can do — not just what you can say. Also, don’t be afraid of failure. Failure is the only way you learn.
M: Recent college graduates are at an advantage in the digital world because senior leaders across industry assume that the “kids” are best equipped to run digital programs. My advice is to get an internship, or take a job, where you can either A) run something — a website, a project, a digital campaign, or B) work for someone who runs something. Also, learn to code or design, or both. It’s not enough to boast mastery of social media. Guess what? All of your peers can say the same thing.
5. Obama calls and wants to kick it with you in DC. Where do you take him and who else would you bring?
K: The Oyster bar at Old Ebbitt when Mike the bartender is working. I’d invite Aaron Rodgers to talk football. I’m sure we’d have a lot to discuss about the state of the NFC North.
M: 1) The Lincoln Memorial – I can imagine that standing in front of the statue of Lincoln, with the Gettysburg address on one side, and the history of the famous speeches that have taken place there, would make for some amazing conversation starters.
2) Market Breakfast at Eastern Market – With a line that often snakes around and out the door, the regulars would enjoy a break in the monotony. I can imagine the jovial owner who takes your order and yells it out for all to hear saying “An order of Blue Bucks for the President!” I enjoy sitting at the long, communal table of DCers and tourists devouring their omelets, grits and blueberry buckwheat pancakes (Blue Bucks) in a century old building. Interesting histories, interesting jobs. The President would fit right in!
3) Joy of Motion Dance – I’ve been known to take a hip hop or jazz dance class or two at Joy of Motion on H Street/Atlas District. We know the President has moves on the basketball court; it would be fun to see what else he can do.
6. BONUS QUESTION: Twitter vs. Facebook hackathon – who wins and why?
K: To dodge the question I think both would have some really cool applications that would get built. Each platform brings different strengths to the table. Now in a game of beer pong it’s no question – Team Facebook would dominate.
M: Twitter. It’s simple. That’s like asking a candidate if they are voting for themselves.