A ?recent forum at Howard University tackled the effective use of social media, political communications experts urged college students and other young voters to transform their Facebook and Twitter contacts into powerful political networks in advance of the 2012 elections.

It was convened by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies Media and Technology Institute, in partnership with Howard’s School of Communications, NAACP, National Action Network, Voto Latino, the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, the Hip Hop Caucus, IMPACT, Politic365 and BET Networks.

African Americans in particular are over-represented on sites like Twitter.” – Jamal Simmons political commentator

Transforming the contacts to good works can make a significant impact if this year is anything like the last election when African Americans played a critical role in getting this president elected.”

Social media can be effective tools for anyone, according to conservative commentator Lenny McAllister. He cited the success that the Tea Party has had with social media, saying, “These are not 22-year-old conservatives that are using Facebook and Twitter. These are your grandparents!”

As the 2012 election season gets underway, this is the first in a series of events by the Joint Center to highlight the role of social media in civic engagement.” – Dr. Nicol Turner-Lee Vice President/Director Joint Center Media and Technology Institute.

We want to energize African Americans and other people of color, especially young and potential voters who are comfortable with the technology and can lead the way to broader adoption,” Lee said.

Stefanie Brown, National Field Director of the NAACP, urged students in the audience to connect with those outside their immediate friendship circles and comfort zones.

Adam Sharp, Twitter’s Manager for Government and Politics, said social media enthusiasts must recognize the limitations. “Tools like Twitter are not a replacement for sources of quality information. They are better used as a way for a person to connect the dots.”

Jessica Reeves of Voto Latino agreed, saying Twitter and Facebook are tools for “getting attention to things we’re working on.” She said they were effective when various groups were trying to build support for the Dream Act, which would have allowed permanent residency status for some young immigrants.