This 2008 presidential campaign has been unique in many ways, but one aspect in particular that I have been fascinated with is how social media has become an influential part of this race for the White House. I never would have thought that when Facebook and MySpace first were established that they would have experienced the tremendous growth that we have seen in the last few years. Today companies, organizations, groups and even presidential candidates have profiles on social networking sites.
These sites have been particularly valuable among the younger population and have played a significant role in engaging young voters during this election season.
Through online networks, candidates are communicating with younger supporters and are reaching out to voters in a way that hasn’t been available in the past. Essentially, through social networks, presidential candidates are able to become part of voters’ social groups, their “friends”, in efforts to gain support. A shift away from preaching and more toward conversing with supporters has become apparent. This shows the power of social media. It allows for a more intimate and personal connection, a relationship that can hopefully build trust.
The legitimacy of the presidential candidates and their message is also reinforced through social media. If a candidate slips and is inconsistent with something that they say or their perceived message, it will likely be known in real time. That is the good, and sometimes bad thing about social media, blogs and perhaps the Internet in general. Information can spread very quickly and with active bloggers everywhere, this is inevitable.
Not only do these sites open another channel for communicating with voters, candidates can also utilize them to observe their campaigns. Through blogs, the way in which voters are receiving a candidate’s message can be monitored. Demographic information about supporters such as where they live, their age, and other interests are all available. This can be leveraged and help the candidates to better understand who and where their key supporters are.
Today, it has almost become a necessity for candidates, and anyone trying to gain supporters for that matter, to have a presence within multiple social media networks. They are able make use of these communities as yet another tool to build their campaign and individual “brands”. It is interesting; some people say that they would not vote for a candidate who didn’t have profiles in social media networks and other online communities, as it would indicate that they are not current with the times. Would you?