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Social Media for Politics + Infographic

July 31, 2012

By James Gibbons – USA Today
Every candidate in the race to be the Republican presidential nominee has a Twitter, Facebook, YouTube account and personal website. Just as important as each candidate’s social media suite are those of supporters and Political Action Committees.
 
These new dynamics have created a paradigm shift in terms of how to run an effective campaign and how the electorate responds to candidates.
 
One clear benefit is the notion that social media enables candidates to connect with voters on a personal level. While robo-calls and television ads are still in use, voters are able to directly share their opinions on a candidate’s Facebook page or Tweet them a question.
 
A recent study by Sociagility was able to quantify the Republican candidates’ social media presence by measuring factors such as popularity (followers, fans), receptiveness (links, posts) and interaction with other users (comments, shares). It found that Rep. Ron Paul of Texas had the most “effective” use of social media followed by former speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and Rep. Michele Bachmann.
 
Current Republican front-runner Mitt Romney was rated fourth.
 
Congressman Paul is certainly a unique candidate and it is not surprising that he has such a large online presence as the majority of young voters in recent primaries and caucuses have voted for Paul.
 
Young voters are having an impact in this election; more than the average voter. The younger generations are most at ease with technology which allows passionate voters to do their own virtual campaigning by way of creating YouTube videos. In addition, online forums, Facebook and news sites all provide comment sections where tech-savvy voters can promote their candidate.
 
This dichotomy in the electorate – young, technologically oriented voters vs. the traditional older generations -– creates an opportunity for college students to immerse themselves in the political process. Campaigns need people who are skilled users of social media. Who better to fill those jobs than college students?
 
Another benefit of social media in the political process is the transparency in which voters become aware of almost anything about the candidates. When someone uses a smartphone to capture a candidate doing or saying something less than ideal, in less than five minutes that clip can be uploaded to the web. Once uploaded, it can go viral on YouTube and Facebook.
 
Social media has now become a critical component to any successful political campaign. Instead of voters digesting information that is given to them on television, social media creates an important and personal dialogue in politics. It would be wise to embrace this new paradigm and improve, instead of reverting back to the archaic landscape of a political race with no internet.
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