The power of Social Media’s influence can no longer be ignored. Even political campaigns have quickly made use of social media’s growing reach to attract a new audience, spread the message of their promising platforms, and gain a new distribution channel by which to promote their ideals from. But in spite of having a new platform, many would argue that in politics, the propensity to over share and the absence of a filter for posted content in social media may just lead to its own undoing.
Over the years, we have collectively observed how political candidates have slowly turned to social media to connect with voters and build loyalty among their followers. Popular political personalities like Barack Obama have paved the way for many others, making use of Instagram to give the public a closer look of what it is like on the trail of his campaign, giving users never before seen photos and images of cities they visited, speeches they made and a more personal insight in their own private lives.
US President Donald Trump is also known to crack up a storm on Twitter alone for his sharp and personal commentaries, giving media outlets something to feast on every time he posts something new and shocking. Many politicians have followed suit as many electoral candidates now make use of social media’s rich and immersive content sharing features to interact with their audience and engage voters in discussions.
As popular personalities and politicians turn their social media profiles into a campaign platform, many have seen this become the norm as other political candidates come up with their own creative ways to gain traction for themselves and what they stand for. Many of them now broadcast their public events, stream their speeches and interviews online and post live updates by the minute to their followers.
There are even claims that Trump growth hacked his social presence by spiking his Social Proof via buying Twitter followers and using automatic retweeting services. In interviews, he referred to his growing social power and it might have caused him to get his name out in people’s minds early on, giving him the lead that would eventually win the entire race. Changing someone’s mind is now as easy as posting a photo or a comment in social media. That is how much social media has changed the way for politics these days.
Gone are the days when candidates relied solely on the result of public talks, debates and TV appearances to influence voter popularity in cities and states as a measure of success. No longer do they have to shake every voter’s hand in person to ask for their vote. With social media, a personal handshake can be made by every single like or share they rack up over a Facebook post or a tweet. As more political candidates bring their campaign to social media, critical numbers now refer to likes, shares and user engagement in Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, YouTube or Instagram.
But how has social media changed how people viewed politics as a whole?
Many would say actual voting records and political influence now fall behind social media influence. In fact, the results of the recently concluded US Elections can attest to what many studies have already confirmed – the most popular candidates in social media are not always those with the best platforms. Donald Trump’s millions of social media flowers are proof that getting talked about online works in increasing audience engagement and promoting visibility that can help fuel the success of your campaign. Trump’s successful campaign on social media alone can attest that even political influence increases exponentially when people talk about you, share memes of you, and that in politics, there is no clear line between good or bad publicity.
In social media, it doesn’t seem to matter anymore how much a candidate actually has to contribute to pressing social issues and concerns, as long as he can engage his audience and followers with socially entertaining commentaries. Getting talked about in social media now seems to have a hand at increasing your market value and influencing people’s votes as well. Even innocent photos take centerstage when they are made into memes and used as weapons in public political discussions and debates.
And it seems to go beyond the political candidates themselves. Even their loyal and eager followers and supporters have turned Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Snapchat into a frenzy with political posts and opinions of their own – sharing their own stories about why they are voting for their preferred candidates, what changes they have made in their lives and the promises they hope to fulfill once they take on the Electorate. Even random rants they make on Facebook or Twitter gain visibility among their own followers and have been proven to actually change 1 out of 5 minds according to Pew Research Center.
Has Social media ruined politics?
Voters have the most to gain from being able to dissect everything they need to know about about a politician’s voting record and what his platform entails. Social media gives them the means to better learn more about who they are voting for. Social media gives people a platform to share their views and engage in political discussions right at home, while on the bus or while getting lunch at work. Being able to read posts and discuss politics with other social media users without ever having to attend a politician’s campaign run makes it so much easier to make up their minds on their own. They can make their own choice and vote whoever they feel deserves it or has the most potential to change their lives for the better.
For the politicians themselves, the power of social media can be at times hard to contain. Sure, it works wonders at self-promotion and gaining a new audience and influencing votes but in the long run, everything they post online will forever be marked, shared and can be used against them if they are not careful enough. Now that everyone today has an online profile of their own, it only seems fitting to worry about how people think of you through what you post online. In the end, as we foster close communities and build more relationships in social media, your online reputation makes you who you are and is something very had to rebuild if you lose it to the stigma we so often see in social media.