Does Digital Savvy Pay ...


Ever since Barak Obama parlayed digital pyrotechnics into a stay in the White House, politicians have embraced the online world with the fervor of a Tuscaloosa preacher.

If digital could be a difference-maker in an election, it seems logical to think that Silicon Valley — the place where construction workers use Yelp to find restaurants, make the reservation on OpenTable and then tweet about the free canapés — would be that spot.

The perfect petri dish came to the fore in Ro Khanna taking on incumbent Mike Honda in the recent election for California’s 17th Congressional District, an area that covers a wide swath of Silicon Valley.

An Obama protégé, I assumed that Khanna would run a campaign heavy on the bits and bytes. But what I wondered was how much separation would this create with Honda who at 73 years of age sits at the far edge of the digital native classification.

My snapshot analysis starts with their websites:

Khanna Website - 2014 political election


Mike Honda Website -  - 2014 political election

Khanna’s site has the more switched-on look with the vertical scroll that works so well on mobile devices. Still, Honda scores points with a pop culture visual that borrows from Mad Men.

Turning to Twitter …

Khanna Twitter -  - 2014 political election


Mike Honda Twitter -  - 2014 political election

Khanna definitely brings a fresh look to his account. Plus, he gets the informality of Twitter with the closing phrase on his profile, “A little bit nerdy.”

Still, the numbers are the numbers, and Honda’s 14.7K followers crush Khanna’s 3,646 followers, which brings me to another point. Honda started tweeting in October 2008. Khanna joined in August 2012, making it appear that he viewed the social media platform as just another communications channel for his election campaign.

If someone could ever figure out how to roll back your Twitter start date like an odometer on a used car ready for Craig’s List, I’m guessing there are a few politicians who would buy such a service.

What about Facebook?

Khanna Facebook  - 2014 political election


Mike Honda Facebook - - 2014 political election

Again, I like the consistency of Khanna’s branding in his social platforms, and this time, he’s got the upper hand with 21,848 likes compared to Honda’s 11,510 likes.

Taking a look at Instagram …

Khanna Instagram  - 2014 political election


Honda Instagram  - 2014 political election

Instagram looks like a wash with neither politician emphasizing the social media tool.

As for YouTube …

Khanna YouTube  - 2014 political election


Honda YouTube  - 2014 political election

Like Instagram, neither candidate is exactly killing it. Most of the videos don’t crack the 100-view mark, and none of the videos receive 1,000 views.

My takeaway: While the stats reflect a growing appetite for video, a dull video is still a dull video. It also seems to indicate that integrating an amusing cat video into a political campaign would be high-reward proposition.

Back to the original question of much separation between Khanna and Honda when it comes to online presence — it turns out that my premise was wrong.

Not only did Khanna gain zero advantage from his online presence, but one could make an argument that the 73-year old Honda and his camp actually enjoyed an advantage on the digital front.

Just don’t expect a future Honda campaign to deliver a viral video of a cat coding a mobile app.



  • Frank Strong

    Kittens as political props! Can you imagine the (fake) outrage? Oh, the late shows might have fun with that.

    • hoffman

      This is rich. Perfect fodder for Conan. I’ve got to believe someone will eventually take a Buzzfeed-like mentality to their election campaign.


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