Social media plays a crucial role in political advertising campaigns today. Social media channels allow political messaging to reach millions of voters across many networks daily. It is a version of mass media that can be done quickly, constantly and at a low cost which is ideal for political campaign tight budgets. With the speed and the number of viewers involved, the impact can be very substantial. It also significantly helps them reach the younger demographic who are avid users of these channels.
Political social media campaigns consist of advertising on and sharing content on social media sites as well as creating social media pages along with a regular website. Tactics are similar to those used for branding; posts are simple and easy to understand, retweeted or shared. They should be well written to achieve quick intake and reaction from voters. Television ads are quite different and involve a much longer process. The content is created for educational and fundraising purposes and in turn allows the candidate to estimate where they stand in the race amongst competitors using the same channels. According to an article by Laura Jerpi of South Source, political social media activity is not conversational; it’s focused on reaching voters with a specific message. Politicians don’t usually reply to viewers’ comments but use the platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to host live Q&A sessions from the campaign headquarters.
Social media political campaigns can be powerful in swaying people’s votes. Viewers seeing the political views of their friends, family and peers can have an effect on their decisions. The potential reach they have can be astonishing. For instance, Chris Saad, chief strategy officer from Echo said the use of social media was pivotal during the 2008 presidential election, when U.S. President Barack Obama became the first candidate to use it successfully. “It was the first campaign where social media was pervasive and he understood it and leveraged it.” Furthermore, he stated, “A candidate may have a million subscribers but will reach 10 million or 100 million people because of its viral effect.” He also emphasized the importance of political figures having their own website. Social media should be used to ultimately promote and drive voters to the candidate’s full service and content rich website.
According to Jane Susskind Community Manager at The Independent Voter Network (IVN), there are 5 ways social media will change political campaigns in 2014.
1) Google + has become the world’s second largest social network with Google + ads running on the Google Display Network of over 2 million websites. The sites allow consumers to reshare, comment or join live hangouts from the advertisement. Facebook and twitter were dominant in the 2012 election and Google + is predicted to become more popular.
2) Images will speak louder than words. Posts that include photos albums receive 180 percent more engagement than an average post. See Obama’s most popular tweet below:
3) Campaigns try news ways to appeal to youth. Politicians have found Facebook vital to reach young voters and will be adapting campaigns to other popular sites such as Instagram and Vine.
4) Real-time video sharing will emerge. Politician may use short micro-videos to give voters a view into a subject or their daily life; allowing information to be consumed quickly, clearly and be shared easily.
5) Twitter usage will continue to grow since it gives politicians real-time reactions to voters. One in ten American’s gets their news from twitter according to Pew Research Center.