Social Media

Social Media – Shaping the 2016 Presidential Election

american_flag-971804Whether you’re a Democrat or Republican, or some affiliation in between, if you’ve spent any time on the social media sites lately, you’ve noticed a dramatic upswing in political posts.

Today, approximately 87 percent of the American public is on the Internet, and more and more of these users spend an inordinate amount of time on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, the top three social networking sites. So, it should come as no surprise that social media has become a driving force in the upcoming presidential race.

Since the Republican and Democratic conventions, these social media sites have been abuzz with information, commentaries and debates from both political camps, vying for the public’s attention. Both candidates are increasingly viewing Facebook, Twitter and now even Instagram as strategic battlegrounds in their fight for the White House.

A recent Pew Research Center study finds that the public is getting more of their news this election cycle from social media than ever before. This study indicates that 44 percent of American adults are learning about the presidential election from social media and 24 percent are using social media posts as a source of election news.

Employing social media to obtain the seat in the oval office is not new. President Obama was the first president to successfully use social media to reach minorities and young voters in both the 2008 and 2012 elections. His Ask Me Anything on Reddit, an entertainment, social news networking service, and news website, quickly became one of the most popular threads of all time.

However, during the previous elections, the candidates favored calculated statements that were highly controlled and sanitized, according to Patrick Ruffini, Republican political strategist and founder of Engage, a digital media firm. Today, Ruffini says, the candidates are exploiting it to champion an opinion and even issue a policy proposal.

Social media is a platform with the potential to reach millions of people…and in politics, that’s half the battle. This platform lends itself to imagery, which is significantly more effective than dry, non-engaging text. Via videos and succinct messages, candidates can bring the public along with them on their campaign trail and appeal to a younger generation that demands its information chop-chop.

Donald Trump has always been a fan of social media, actively using it to promote his television show The Apprentice. This medium suits his campaign style…spouting his often controversial sound snippets that are easily shareable. Much of his campaign is built around “virability,” and he has a huge online audience to prove it.

Hillary Clinton is no novice to social media either, benefiting greatly from celebrity endorsements on Instagram. A selfie with Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, along with their endorsement as well as the public backing of Lena Dunham and Amy Poehler helped her capitalize social media engagement.

In recent months, social media has threatened to overtake traditional news outlets and paid advertising as the top resource for the candidates to rally voters, go after their rivals and make news. The presidential race has become a fiercely competitive battle to harness the power of social media to generate the most buzz.

The ability to reach the millennial demographic is an important aspect of each candidate’s campaign effort. It is a well-known fact that young adults are shifting more and more of their attention online to social networks. Consequently, the candidates are incorporating more and more social media in their campaigns to stand out to millennials.

Political ad spending is expected to reach an astounding $11.4 billion during this election, 20 percent more than the amount spent in 2012. But, even more surprising is that spending on social media is estimated to account for more than half of the $1 billion budget for digital media.

The bottom line is that social media has become a political game changer. As the election draws near, the American public can expect to see the increasing use of social media by both candidates to shape the election and improve their chances of securing the highest office in the land.