Social Media in Politics…The New Front-Line

As major state level campaigns begin to heat up in the race to the November elections, we begin to see an overwhelming presence of politics ingrained into our social media lives.

Gone are the days where people make the very important decision of voting for a political candidate based on how many yard signs they see on the way to the voting center in their local high school gymnasium. A mere decade ago, the voter turnout rate amongst eligible American voters was as dismal as it ever was in our country’s young history. For as long as I can remember the voting public has always been pessimistic about the selection of candidates partly because politicians typically don’t always have the best track record for being honest, and they just simply didn’t know enough about who these candidates were or what they stood for.

-Enter New Media-

Obama's Profile on Myspace

Although it was prevalent in the 2000 and 2004 elections, we really began to notice social media play a major role early on in the presidential election of 2008. I’ll never forget when I signed on to Myspace (back when everyone was doing it, but that’s still not an excuse) and I had one friend request from Barack Obama. It didn’t take long to see that what the Obama camp was doing through social media was not only inexpensive but effective. When all was said and done the 2008 Presidential Election saw the biggest voter turnout in about four decades*, and it was Barack Obama who emerged overwhelmingly victorious.  Not soon after did the newly elected President’s campaign essentially became a tutorial for all future political candidates regardless of the party or position.

-So Why Was It So Successful?-

For the first time ever the people had access to a presidential candidate where they were able to interact with him like never before. People didn’t need to rely on watching debates or remember slogans on signs. We were able to go straight to the source by reading his daily tweets, or checking his constantly updated Facebook profile full of video, news, and images. Meanwhile you almost felt some sort of disconnect from his competitor John McCain the “conservative” Senator for Arizona, who ran a more old school campaign that focused on small public speaking events while shaking hands and kissing babies.

After the 2008 election, things changed fast; in a matter of two years the online presence of a political candidate is not only the norm… it’s required if they hope to stand any chance of success. Campaign directors are now shying away from traditional television ads and old school tactics all while recruiting young social media experts to essentially run their campaign, and give the candidate an online voice. Social media tools like Facebook, LinkedIn, Social Grow, and Twitter have become essential to running a campaign because they “turn the tables” and deliver the people to the candidates as opposed to the other way around. Candidates now find themselves campaigning in 140 characters or less or plugging their fully loaded Facebook fan page during every event, why? Because it gives them a new level of interaction that is more than just valuable… it’s essential. It goes without saying that new-media will forever now play an important role in politics; the interesting part will now be to see who can use it in innovative new ways to create more exposure…thus the evolution of media continues on.

* http://elections.gmu.edu/preliminary_vote_2008.html255

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