The Intersection Of Politics And Social Media

Photo Courtesy of Centerac Technologies Limited  

Photo Courtesy of Centerac Technologies Limited

Contributed by Lawrence Lease

Modern day campaigning is all about social media. We're so used to seeing candidates drop a thousand points in key media markets and later winning elections.

In today's world, 140 characters on Twitter can be as powerful if not more powerful, than the traditional methods, in the right hands. Social media has grown because of declining trust in big institutions by young voters.

When a millennial gets something from a traditional news source that a friend has shared, it comes with a "seal of approval" by that friend. That is why the social sharing of news stories shapes the minds of people during this election.

Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have both engaged with voters through social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Donald Trump has succeeded because he has built up his brand over the last few decades. People have known him as an entertainer and businessman. Donald Trump is skilled at storytelling, entertaining and captivating people, making people feel like they really know Donald Trump.

Because of the way social media has transformed the news cycle, the need to be entertaining and engaging has become paramount. If a candidate puts out a policy paper that may help the country, it won't be shared by millions of people on Twitter.

However, social media can sometimes hurt a candidate's image. Political strategist, Mary-Katharine Hamm, explained to me that social media can sometimes be uncontrollable.

"The issue, of course, is that there’s no way to control this exposure. The best thing candidates can do – aside from hoping that their most embarrassing moments don’t wind up as viral videos – is to embrace social media as their constituents have, and use it as a platform to disperse their political narrative." 

Social media has impacted campaign financing. The traditional methods for candidates relied on spending money on TV ads in hopes that their message would be seen by millions.

Donald Trump has succeeded in using earned media by doing something that packs a big punch on social media. His comments are picked up by the media which talks about it, which then reaches millions of viewers across the country.

Social media done in a provocative way (not just scandalous or vulgar) moves through the media circle. In order to flourish in social media, you need to create a moment. Senator Rand Paul has been a strong advocate of eliminating the IRS. His presidential campaign put out a video that showed him burning up the tax code, creating a moment viewed by millions. 

Governor Chris Christie created a moment by creating a passionate video where he addressed pain medication addiction. The video was seen by seven million times and was shared millions of times.