Social media’s influence on presidential politics
While the Greatest Generation learned about candidates through radio and newspapers and Baby Boomers connected through television – the current generation is now witnessing the campaign on a digital scale in real time.
Digital technology has led to more vocal candidates, who are pressured to provide timely responses to debates, accusations, or crises. Candidates like Donald Trump have used these digital outlets to their advantage. In fact, the New York Times reported that Trump has earned close to $2 billion worth of media attention at no cost thanks to outlet such as Snapchat and Twitter.
In this post, we examine how three social media trends – Snapchat, Twitter and Digital Media – are changing campaigning forever.
Founded in 2011 as Picaboo, Snapchat quickly became a top social media app. According to the company, the app is used by more than 60% of 13- to 34-year-old smartphone users in the United States. The majority of people in this age range are also eligible to vote, making it an interesting new facet to campaigning. Through the creation of Discover and Geofilters, Snapchat has opened new doors for both candidates and voters.
Discover, founded in 2015, allows users to read or watch stories from different media outlets. While it cannot actually be used by campaigns to release information, news and entertainment outlets such as Wall Street Journal and CNN post stories daily. The day after the New York primaries, the first story on the CNN Discover was “Clinton and Trump Win Big in New York.” The outlets reach millions of potential young voters.
More recently, Snapchat released Geofilter, which allows users to add layers or filters onto snapchats depending on geographical location. As the New York Times reported, “these filters allow users to annotate a clip with analysis or outline a candidate’s position on an issue.” The geofilters used during the Iowa caucuses reached over six million users by displaying live results. Incredibly, Bernie Sanders was the only candidate in the New York Primaries to create a Geofilter (see below). Even though there was a public outcry against this, any candidate was allowed to create a Geofilter—they simply had to create an image and purchase it for the region. This same method will most likely be used for the elections in November.
Twitter has existed for the last two presidential elections, but never has it been used so actively (read: loudly) until this election. With only 140 words per tweet, Trump makes his voice heard to not only his 7.7 million followers but also their followers and media outlets discussing his tweets. His controversial tweets will be remembered for years to come.
Twitter has also become a platform for immediate announcements. Many people hear the latest news through Twitter, including campaign news. In fact, shortly after former Republican candidate Ted Cruz tweeted his plans to run for president, Rand Paul, Hillary Clinton and Marco Rubio all followed suit.
By purchasing advertisements on Facebook, YouTube, Google, and other online platforms, television commercials are quickly becoming a thing of the past. Ads have even begun appearing on streaming sites such as Hulu. This innovative digital method will surely prove to be more effective than traditional media. Rather than gearing toward a specific region, campaigns can focus on certain demographics. Facebook has set up its advertisements to line up with each user’s preference. So, if one user frequently “likes” content about Hillary Clinton or Googles Hillary Clinton, Facebook will send Clinton-related ads to the user.
While Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat are not the only social media sites used by campaigns, they are clearly the most recognizable, domestically and internationally. It will be in interesting to see what effects these digital platforms take on the upcoming presidential elections—both through free advertisements through posting and purchasing digital ad space.
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