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

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