Thursday, February 25, 2016

Political Campaigns Enter the 21st Century

The influence of social media has revolutionized political campaigns, chaining the way candidates send target messages to audiences. The goal of political campaigns is more than just to win an election. In fact, campaigns serve four main purposes; to educate, legitimate, sensitize, and activate voters. Before the rise in popularity of social media, campaigns were advertised though the basic media channels of print, television and radio. The use of social media in political campaigns has expanded the number of outlets that can be used to achieve the goals of a campaign.

Without creating awareness and educating voters on a political platform, a campaign is doomed to fail. In order to successfully educate their audience through social media, a candidate must create content that is relevant to their platform and what they hope to achieve if elected president. Simply creating awareness and getting their name out is key in earning an online following. Through social media platforms candidates are now able to target the younger millennial generation, who has a lower voter turnout rate, by communicating on their turf. Millennials such as myself are internet connoisseurs as well as social media gurus. Everything we do, we post on social media. Utilizing this knowledge to the candidate’s advantage, it is known that print newspaper is a dying medium and is not applicable to reaching a younger audience and altering messages to be sent via Computer Mediated Communication.

View an expert's opinion:
How candidates are using social media to educate publics

Campaigns should also draw citizens closer to the government. Legitimizing is an important contribution to campaigning because it creates a sense of identity and allows for individuals to feel like they have a voice. Instead of voters seeking out information on the election or specific candidates, social media brings political campaigns to them. When candidates communicate with voters on social media, they are in a way, inviting their followers to interact with them and share their opinions. First hand, people can see what candidates are posting to social media and bring the government to the people.

Political campaigns should also sensitize which allows for public leaders to listen to the public’s needs. This seeks to form a relationship between the public and the candidates, familiarizing them with the public. Social media closes the gap between the government and the public allowing them to feel more connected to candidates. The timeliness of social media allows for candidates to engage in conversation immediately. The conversation-style aspect of social media benefits candidates by making their followers feel like they are talking to their friend, rather than a political candidate that is essentially a stranger to them. Social media breaks down physical distance barriers, making the audience feel a closer connection to the candidate.

A campaign should also activate. This should encourage voters to act upon what the candidate has said, whether it be by making a donation, spread awareness and finally vote for the candidate. Party Identification refers to the specific party or candidate that a person choses to pledge their loyalty to and most commonly supports. This pledge can take several different forms that range from: registering as a member of a specific party, volunteer for political campaigns, directly giving your vote to a political candidate that aligns with one’s own party, promoting party ideas, beliefs and goals with friends and family. All of these are forms of activating citizens, the fourth and final goal of political campaigns. Social media enables people to share their views, opinions and beliefs about a political party or candidate with their family and friends. It can be used to show support or in order to share their displeasure with the issue or person in question.
Throughout the years, political campaigns were solely advertised political parties which then developed into candidate-focused strategies that aimed to sell candidates to the public like they would a bar of soap. Today, campaigns have transformed even further into the technological era, utilizing social media to their maximum benefit to educate, legitimize, sensitize and activate voters.

Mallory West
Political Novice and Social Media Enthusiast

Friday, February 5, 2016

Branding to a T(ea)

Thanks to the internet and social media, we are now able to keep up with each of our friends (or enemies), family and peers; sometimes too well. Through these multiple media channels, you are able to read on Twitter that someone ate a bagel and then check Instagram to see the same person posted a photo of her entire brunch (including the bagel) with a fun n’ flirty caption and filter. We feel the need to post about each and every part in order to form our own ideal personal identity online. Just like companies create and share their brand, we make ourselves into a brand and sell this image to our followers. The most popular way that we have started to brand our identities is by taking selfies. One theory suggests that we view ourselves through other people’s perceptions of us, called the Looking-Glass Self. We are able to share an idealized version of ourselves and make others see us how we want them to. 

Health and fitness has become so heavily emphasized in today’s society. There are thousands of diets, equipments and pills out there that swear that you will lose weight. With the increased desire to achieve the “perfect” body, consumers are willing to try and spend whatever it takes to attain this image. One brand that has recently become extremely popular is Fit Tea. This product is detoxifying tea that increases body metabolism and energy levels. Their Instagram is comprised of selfies of people holding their mugs of tea or the Fit Tea bag. This company has gone from being a small unknown business to taking over the Instagram world by utilizing the power of the selfie.

Celebrities love taking selfies with their Fit Tea.Vanessa Hudgens, Ed Westwick, Sarah Hyland, Ross Lynch, Tyler Posey and Danielle Campbell are just a few of the celebrities that have posted selfies with their Fit Tea on Instagram. Each of these celebrities are physically fit and publicly promote a healthy lifestyle and by posting selfies with this brand, then the brand becomes a part of that image. We see the brand and we see the people in the selfies using the product and we like the way they look, so we think that if we also use that product then we can look like them. It’s selling an ideal lifestyle.

The best celebrity to post a Fit Tea selfie, in my opinion, was Khloe Kardashian. In the past year, Khloe has gone through an impressive body and lifestyle change. With her new book, talk show and body makeover reality television show Khloe has become a respected and impressive health and fitness guru. This is the selfie that she posted to her Instagram profile.

 The caption reads “Missed the gym yesterday and this gave me all the extra help I need!! @fittea keeps me healthy and gives me that glow I love, especially when I’m getting ready for #KocktailsWithKhloe! Being healthy is a lifestyle!!”

Fit Tea does not only repost selfies of celebrities, their Instagram profile contains a range of individuals from all walks of life. They encourage users of Fit Tea products to post pictures with their tea  and to share their own personal transformation photos. Because this is a product that helps lose weight, there are several before and after body transformation selfies. Seeing these selfies and reading their stories creates a sense of community through the brand. When there are selfies of everyday people with imperfections and similar body size and weight to you and you all share a similar goal (to lose weight), then Fit Tea becomes the bridge that connects each person together. There forms a support group through the brand to all reach your own personal fitness goals together, supporting one another.

Without their use of selfies, I would have never heard of this brand. Next time you are out eating brunch, drinking Starbucks, or out with your friends, snap that selfie! Don't underestimate the power of the selfie. Instead of being viewed as a basic “white” girl move, think of selfies as a strategic and powerful branding/marketing technique.