How Social Media is Changing Politics:
“Social media strips away the intermediary that media plays between people and their government. It gets rid of that middleman and allows people to interact directly with their elected officials. The flattening of that process has been tremendously helpful to those of us who want to hear what people think.“- Paul Ryan, Vice Presidential Candidate
Politicians have always been using different methods of media, one of which is social media, to reach out to maximum number of voters. One of the most popular and fastest ways to communicate with the mass is through Internet. Increasing users of social media has bought American politicians' attention towards it. We cannot deny the fact that social media has changed the face of politics in last two decades. Social Media is new weapon for campaigns to change a lot of opinions people have for the parties. Politicians take advantage of Internet medium to preach their propaganda.
Social media has changed US politics in many ways. Increasing number of Americans go online to find political news and events. It is becoming very difficult for politicians to reach enamor number of audience by using traditional method of media such as newspaper or radio. Politicians use the platform of social networking sites primarily to communicate with masses. Via social media politicians can dodge the customary method of reaching voters through paid advertising or earned media. It has become common for political campaigns to promote commercials and circulate them for free on YouTube, instead of, paying for them on TV or radio. Social networking sites permits politicians to communicate directly to voters without spending a penny.
As part of their social media strategy, politicians create exciting posts to get more loyal followers, similar to the strategies used by a brand or media company. Candidates create simple posts that can be easily retweeted or shared on social media. This campaign marketing is different than creating television commercials, as the politicians can create social media posts rapidly and effortlessly to react to news. Whereas making an advertisement is a much longer process.
Political campaigns use Social Media to raise funds, appealing and networking with public, systematizing followers, collecting voter data, reaching out to youth and trying to get them interested in politics. Early 2000s was the time when Social Media was introduced to major population and people essentially started using it. Political campaigns took advantage of this opportunity and hopped on the wagon to gain as much recognition as they can among their voters. However, first use of Internet for political propaganda began in 1992. It was campaigns of Bill Clinton and Al Gore who maintained a website. This website contained information on candidates' position on issues, their speeches and press releases. Internet was a new invention during that time. Not a whole lot of people had access to Internet during those days and news reporter did not look at those web-based information either. Communication was one way as users cannot post anything and can only see information posted. It was very limited approach and presidential candidates still relied on traditional media like newspaper, TV and radios. Thus, it was not a successful attempt at that time but surely it was an innovative step that Clinton and Al Gore's political campaign took.
1996 was no different. Bill Clinton and Bob Dole were running head-to-head for elections. It was also the year when according to Pew Research Center, one in five American citizens were going online particularly for news. Clinton's website was still limited to one-way communication and so was Bob Dole's. Clinton's campaign did use Internet as a mean of fundraising and ultimately collected a small amount of $10,000. Since Internet was not very advanced just yet, websites did not have hyperlinks and directed back to candidate's website for news and references. As per Pew Research Center only 4% of voters used website for information and out of those voters, only 1 in 4 said they found information helpful.
By 2000, about half of the Americans started going online. The number of people going online for political news grew from 4% to 18% in just four years. 43% of this online users claimed that their voting decision was affected by online news. This was amazing period for parties who decided to take advantage of Internet for fundraising. Democratic candidate Bill Bradley raised $1.3 million, which was more than Al Gore's funding. Al Gore saw this and thought it was a good chance to take benefit from Internet and ended up raising 2.7 million. Similarly, Republican candidate John McCain raised $2 million, which helped him stay for a lot of primaries until finally he lost to George W. Bush. McCain's campaign was able to get more volunteers through Internet and organized a short notice meeting as well through online communication.
Democratic candidate Howard Dean brought trend of blogging and Meetups to the world of politics in 2004 and used it to reach out to large amount of people about views on different issues. They raised about 20 million in funds. Seeing this, John Kerry and George W. Bush joined him on this Internet blogging adventure as well. While Bush's campaign used websites and blogs mainly to organize volunteers and communicate with them, they still were able to get about $14 million in contribution. Kerry's campaign primarily focused on fundraising through online blogs and websites. Their total collection was $82 million. Kerry's campaign proved the power of Internet to reach out to big and small contributors.
In the year of 2008, Social Media came into the big picture. With the establishment of Facebook in 2004, YouTube in 2005 and Twitter in 2006, 2008 election campaigns were all about the use of social media as the main strategy to acquire votes. Famous social networking sites like Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, etc dedicated special pages, videos, pictures, and features to support elections and involve more people around the world in U.S politics. Seven out of sixteen candidates announced on YouTube about them running for presidency. Obama is said to be the first occupant of White House who won most of his votes through social networking site like Facebook. Obama's campaign was part of almost every social networking site out there. He kept in constant touch with his supporters and involved in political discussions online. This brought him votes from 70% of the youth, most percentage ever in United States' presidential elections. Obama only accepted funds through online contributions and still managed to collect $750 million.
Following are some Pros and Cons of increasing social media's role in politics
• Using social media politicians are able to reach out to max number of people without spending a dime. They only have to pay if they wish to advertise their campaigns on social networking sites.
• Social media removes the need of middleman, as social media allows people to interact with each other directly. Political parties use Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and hangout, chat rooms to talk to general people.
• Higher number of youth is involving in politics and showing interest in knowing their future presidents. They are involved in an open discussion through social media.
• No one can forget the significance of social media in the election promotion designed by Obama. It involved effective participation of people.
• People can get the up-to-date information on their Smartphones. Every second new information is updated on social media.
• Social media provides unprecedented access to politicians, which gives them flexibility to post their view on the issues to get attention of people. The extraordinary access makes sure the content on social media posted by politicians is transparent and authentic.
• Social media has become a device for politicians to make more noise, and a way to promote polarization.
• Social media is extremely used to fault and criticize the opposition parties and information is distorted by false and inaccurate facts.
• More and more number of political subgroups are increasing and using the social media to create a political congestion.
• Social media advertising involves three main factors: money, geography and name-recognition. If we look at Obama campaign, it was quite expensive it costs around 50 million dollars on just social media, which is 17 cents on each individual.
• Communicating is the key requisite of a successful campaign on social media. If you fail to reply to the queries and doubts posted by your target audience, then there are chances that people who follow politicians will feel ignored. Thus, politicians will lose the support.
There are many more issues with social media that is affecting politics to the high extend. Lets talk about the recent situation where the hacker was able to redirect all the traffic visiting jebbush.com to Donald trump campaign web page. This could affect both the Democrats and Republican Party in negative ways. While it can be positive impact on republicans as they will now have more views on their campaign ad.
The purpose of this survey is to identify how politician's social media postings are affecting the voting decisions of an individual. Survey was conducted among 10 people of age group 21-23.
Q1: How active are you on social media?
100% survey takers said they are very active on social media.
Q2: Do you Vote?
70% said they do.
Q3: How often do you follow politics on social media?
60% said very often, 40% said occasionally.These figures show that all of the survey takers follow politics on social media even if it is just occasionally for some.
Q4: Do you believe negative news you see on social media regarding your favorable candidate?
50% said they are very likely to believe it, rest 30% said they are likely to believe it and 20% said they would not believe it. Negative news about candidates can go viral on social media and most voters are likely to believe it.
Q5: How likely negative news affect your voting decision?
80% said they are very likely to rethink their decision, 20% said it is unlikely to affect them. Negative news can also affect candidate's chances to get votes. They may loose followers as well.
Social media has two aspects to it, positive and negative. It can be a very powerful tool and medium of communication for politicians if they know how to strategize their move. Since America is a democratic country, it is important for involvement of all the adult citizens to vote. Youth generation ordinarily do not read newspaper or listen to politicians on radios, but they are constantly seen using the social networking sites. A dramatic rise of voters has been noticed among youths after they saw politician's active presence in social media. Also, social media brings us closer to our politicians. It gives us a chance to know our candidates better and it is vital to know whom we are voting for, as they hold future of this country. I do not see any problem with rise of social media in politics. It is very convenient to retrieve newer and older news and interviews of presidential candidates. I personally go on YouTube or Facebook for latest 2016 campaign news. Because of social media, I am always aware of what is going on in the primary elections, as there are constantly related posts on my Facebook wall. I also think that if a politician did something wrong, it can be all over social media if news get viral. It affects me and it might affect many supporters to rethink their decisions. Presidential candidates have to be extremely careful while posting on social media, sometimes even a small grammatical mistake can be a big deal.
Social media has proved to be a boon to underdog candidates as far as they know the right strategy to increase their fame. There are lot of candidates who wants to take part in elections but they might not have greater financial background. With the help of social media they can raise large funds to compete against candidates with strong financial backup. Social media gives them a fair chance. I think we would have never got Obama as our first African American president if it were not for his constant involvement in various social networking sites.
Since the previous election, social networking sites and various new media have extended their reach in the election process. Although president Barak Obama remains clearly ahead with this social media strategy, Republican candidates Romney, Paul, Gingrich, Santorum, and now Donald trump have recognized the importance of consistently maintaining a presence on social media.
With the 2016 presidential election race heating up, tech-savvy political candidates are striding up, and implementing on, their social media strategies. During the last presidential election in 2012, President Barack Obama joined Twitter; it is standard today for politicians and their campaigns to have Facebook pages, YouTube videos, and Twitter accounts. Nevertheless, for the upcoming election in 2016, there are more social networks for campaigns to consider for advertising and outreach, which includes Snapchat and Instagram. These sites are specifically important for voters, proved to be revolutionary. As in the case of business marketing, companies are switching to social media marketing. Politics is doing the same where political engagement is concerned. For example, according to the study, the ratio of registered voters who follow politicians on social networks has doubled to 16%. That number might not seem extraordinary at first – until we consider that those individuals are just the people who are actively engage with politics. They're the women and men who directly support the candidates, and the people we see at political gatherings and fundraisers. This number does not include the population of voters from different territories. As per the how people are reacting on any posts or what they say (Tweeting or sharing something on Facebook or posting video on YouTube) by politician on social media, and if the post goes viral, some of the voters will see it, and their opinions will change their perspective about particular candidate resulting in change of voting decision.
Throughout the political history of the United States of America, various social media sites have changed the political process. The change demands candidates to change and determine what role the new-fangled medium could possibly play in their campaigns. Over the past two decades, we have witnessed presidential candidates recognize the important functions of the Internet in politics. Since 1992, candidates have increasingly embraced social media as a tool for fundraising, interacting with the public, organizing and assembling supporters, assembling voter data, accomplishing the youth vote, and publicizing information. These functions extended even further from early 2000 to present day with the propagation of social media sites. While using the new media in presidential elections, it clearly provides important benefits to candidates, voters and the public sphere also value by having an easy method of getting miscellaneous information on the election. Though, people should remain aware of runners' underlying reason for using social media: to eventually gain enough votes in order to win the presidential election. To avoid any imprudent beliefs that candidates use social media for the major purpose of handing power over to people or making friendships with voters, social media campaigns proclaimed by a candidate's team should not employ the title grassroots. By preventing the use of this term, citizens can more willingly accept their role, as voters. In conclusion, it is difficult to forecast how the Internet will change in the future or what new uses will be determined for it that could benefit the dominion of politics. We can already see how the use of new media has adapted since the 2008 election, and can only imagine what lies ahead. One thing for sure is that the elections to come will use media in a way that is unimaginable to us today because even newer innovations will undoubtedly surface and once again alter our presidential election process. No matter what Politics was and politics is, it is going to stay a numbers game. The real impact can only be seen when it will be successful to move the numbers in this General elections. If Social media is used properly, it will certainly add to the vote bank but the other side of image will always stay.
As campaigning for the 2016 election increases, political strategies targeting newer social media sites will surely play an important role. Conversely, it remains to be seen how exactly how these efforts will influence voters and affect who becomes the next president of the United States.
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