Social Media’s Power over Politics

No doubt about it – 2016 was an interesting year for politics to say the least. And not just because of who the contenders were for the White House but because of how social media played a significant role in getting the public to pay attention to the election process.

Score 1 for social media.

Memes vs. Platforms

Most of us probably paid more attention to politics this year because we are so connected to our social media platforms. Consider the following questions:

  • How often did you or your friends post on Facebook or Twitter when a candidate said something, um, ‘interesting?’
  • Were you more intrigued in social media memes vs. the platform issues of the candidates?
  • Did you get most of your political updates from social media vs. the standard TV news show or radio program?

You’re not alone. A majority of Americans now say they get news via social media, and half of the public has turned to these sites to learn about the 2016 presidential election   (Pew Research Center, Nov 2016)

Social Media – How Posts and Tweets Impacted Congress

In early January, Congress’ ethics committee was set to weaken the independent Office of Congressional Ethics, but then chose not to – primarily due to a tweet that President-Elect Trump posted as well as a slew of social media backlash from the general public. (Lawmakers stripped the amendment after receiving dozens of calls to their offices and watching the backlash unfold on television and social media.)

Score 2 for social media.  (Whether you’re for or against what the ethics committee was considering, the fact that the public was able to have their voices heard so quickly is definitely a step in a positive direction)

Reaction. Responses. Real-time Feedback.

What’s the reason social media plays such a factor in politics? Sure, our digital platforms are easy to access and available to us 24-7, but these days, every other type of media is too. The real reason lies within these key factors:

  • Emotional reaction and personalized messaging – People crave interaction. When something makes us happy, angry or sad, we tend to share it on social media. Snapchat’s popularity proves that tenfold. And so do WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and other social communication platforms whose growth outpaces traditional social media channels.
  • Responses from Politicians – Social media has enabled the public to be in control of the message- something that most leaders are not used to. It seems that way more so than ever before: politicians cannot control the conversation. Yes, they still control their messaging via TV programs and ads to disseminate their message and win people over to their side. But as the trend is shifting from traditional (TV and radio) to mobile media consumption (tablets and smartphones), politicians can no longer afford missing out on a big block of potential voters – millennials. (Koblin, 2016)
  • Real-time Feedback – During each presidential debate, viewers tweeted their reactions to comments made by Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Every half hour, those tweets were analyzed and placed on a graph, to mark the moment that the candidates’ commentary reached a high or low point:

Twitter Awards Clinton a Narrow Victory in Second Debate: average sentiment in tweets during the debate, aggregated in five minute intervals

What other medium gives us that type of real-time feedback?

Score 3, 4 and 5 for social media.

And the Real Winner was…

Whether your candidate won or lost, the real story of the 2016 election was social media. With 78% of Americans having a social media profile, but only 58% of Americans casting a vote, social media scored one for the ages.

Elect to have an exceptional social media plan this year. Contact GillespieHall to have them create a plan that will always be voted “Number 1” by your consumers.

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