by Hampton Ray, UFSocial Contributor
Pic: Created by Colleen Simon for opensource.com/CC BY-SA 2.0
How political campaigns are using social media to bypass traditional media outlets and generate new levels of support.
The only two Presidential campaigns that have truly been able to harness and exploit the power of social media are the 2008 and 2012 campaigns. As I have already discussed, the 2016 race is already proving to be unique in its use of social media with candidates choosing to make their announcements on Facebook and Twitter as opposed to a grand event.
Social media offers candidates an abundance of opportunities to candidates that invest and cultivate a following on their social channels. Three opportunities have changed the face of political campaigns and have forced candidates to look toward social media to be successful:
1. The ability to speak directly to a supporter.
2. Leveraging a supporter’s network.
3. Bypassing traditional media through a viral post.
Traditional political observers may argue that leveraging social media is simply generating false support. For instance, it is easier to support a candidate by using their hashtag on Twitter but that individual may not actually show up at the polls to vote. However, this thought process underestimates the two-way conversation that takes place on social media. Where one candidate may be successful with one independent hashtag, see #StandWithRand that went viral during a filibuster, another candidate sees more consistent use of a hashtag: #FeelTheBern and more consistent support on the campaign trail.
This Rand app feature will be abused pic.twitter.com/kV6fR5xiRj
— Joe Perticone (@JoePerticone) September 2, 2015
President Obama has already learned the value associated with connecting with supporters on social media and bypassing the traditional press. In 2014, President Obama went on the Funny or Die show “Between Two Ferns” to reach a new audience and reassert his commitment to the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare. The unorthodox approach to reaching new people and controlling the message allowed President Obama to speak directly to a friendly audience without being questioned by a traditional journalist. The same is true for the 2016 candidates.
Recently a front runner for the Republican nomination, Ben Carson, declared “war on the press” vowed to refuse interviews with certain members of the press and not answer “gotcha” questions. Carson will no doubt be forced to social media where he can control a piece of the conversation and speak directly to his supporters. Likewise, Donald Trump declared a similar notion to refuse any interviews from Fox News “for the foreseeable future.” Trump declared that the traditional media outlet was being unfair and looked to his more than five million Twitter followers for comfort.
.@FoxNews has been treating me very unfairly & I have therefore decided that I won’t be doing any more Fox shows for the foreseeable future.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 23, 2015
On the other side of the aisle, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did not have any public interviews for the first three months of her presidential campaign. Clinton had announced her candidacy on Twitter and continued to speak directly to her supporters for the first portion of the campaign. At first the traditional press was somewhat comfortable with this action, but critics began to declare that Clinton was hiding her motives by not meeting with journalists.
Social media was built through connecting people with people, building relationships and sharing experiences through brief thoughts, pictures and video. Businesses and politicians came to social media after learning and respecting the reach of a network of people communicating online. Speaking directly to a base of supporters be it a business creating superfans who are loyal to a product or a politician creating a group of zealots for the cause is key to the organic reach of social media. When the traditional press is not friendly, a candidate can look to their social pages for ardent supporters and foster a stronger connection with them through social media.
About the Author
Hampton Ray is a former staffer to Senator Marco Rubio who left to work in the private sector. Currently, Hampton works for Total Military Management, a third-party logistics company headquartered in Jacksonville, Florida.