The other day I saw an article reporting that 88% of social media users in the United States are registered voters. It gave me pause because as someone who follows politics and social media, and who researched it in graduate school, I found the statistic curious.
The paper I wrote in an advertising seminar examined the relationship between the primary campaigns of the Democratic candidates in 2007/08 and social media. Early on, Barack Obama’s campaign captured the social media wave, and it played a big role in his overall win of the White House.
Now that social media has been flushed out for another four years since the primaries campaigns of 2007/08, I wonder how big stake Twitter, Facebook and the like will play in the current races. It’s interesting to look at the shift at where people are getting their political information these days, and which sources they most trust.
According to the article mentioned above, a growing number of people first get their political information from the Internet. Twenty-eight percent of people trust the political conversations they have online, which drives their vote. While television appears to remain the dominant provider of political information, younger generations are taking to the Internet and social media to get their political news.
Ad Age goes so far as to say social media will make or break the 2012 election.
The next occupant of the White House isn’t going to get elected solely because of a brilliant social-media strategy — but without such a strategy, candidates will not be able to enter a dialog with the majority of swing voters.
In my grad school paper, I concluded that political campaigns were using social media to have an interactive relationship with the voters. The medium is the best suited for give-and-take. Now that it is something we expect, I wonder how much more attention the presidential hopefuls will pay to social media this time around.
When television replaced the radio as the preferred way to communicate with voters, candidates were judged on their appearance more than their diction. It stands to be a reason why Nixon lost to Kennedy in 1960. With social media, perhaps candidates will be judged on their ability to respond directly to voters and engage in a more personable and friendly manner.