Social media has immensely changed the way public figures, particularly politicians, are viewed in the public sphere. Never before have politicians been so personable and relatable to their constituents. Social networking sites update in real time and are accessible on a wide range of platforms and devices. By using social media to their advantage, politicians are able to share their views on policies, engage in conversation with voters and shape public opinion about their campaign.
Over 67 percent of American internet users use social networking sites including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. In 2012, 12 percent of Americans regularly got campaign news updates from Facebook, making Facebook just as resourceful as national newspapers and NPR. Twenty-five percent of social network users say that they have gotten involved in a political or social issue after reading about it on social media. Knowing this, politicians should regularly post campaign updates to their social media platforms to grow the number of their supporters.
Much of a politician’s reputation is formed by the views of voters. This is yet another example of how social media can benefit a politician. Two-thirds of social network users are politically active on these platforms, which gives users the ability to help sway public opinion about a politician. If a politician is positively perceived on social media, more people are likely to write a supportive post about them. Thirty-five percent of social media users use the platforms to encourage their friends and followers to vote for their candidate.
No particular party has the upper hand in social networking. Surprisingly, voters’ use of social media to voice their opinion is not really determined by their political affiliation. Both republicans and democrats use social networks to share their views about particular candidates and issues on the ballot.
Young voters are particularly vocal about their political opinions on social networks, meaning they publish their opinions and encourage others to not only vote, but to vote for a particular candidate. This is known as the social vote. The social vote can be highly beneficial to a political candidate during a campaign.
It’s important that politicians, regardless of their party, make their stance on issues known by social media users because social networks are a mainstream venue for political discussion.
By creating a presence on social media platforms, politicians have the great opportunity to help shape their public perception. Social media presence is a huge campaign tool for politicians. Don’t believe us? During the presidential election in 2012, Barack Obama had 30.7 million Facebook friends and 21 million Twitter followers whereas Mitt Romney had only 8.8 million friends and 1.3 million Twitter followers. We all know who won that election. *Mic drop*
Marli Harrelson recently moved to the Tampa area after graduating from The University of Alabama with a degree in Communication and Information Sciences. When she’s not on social media, she’s traveling, eating or watching college football.