How social media is changing political campaigns

 

Elections are decided by small percentage of the population that consists of undecided voters. Mastering the art of social media strategies is essential for political campaigns to sway these voters. A guest post by 2012 Obama campaign alum Domonique James.

Political campaigns have become more intentional about where and with whom they invest their money. Technology and digital advertising are driving these decisions largely because the internet and social media have fundamentally changed how campaigns strategize and communicate with their constituents.

Candidates, advocacy groups, and operatives are under more pressure than ever to get the right message, in front of the right person, at the right time. In fact, Borrell and Associates projected that 2016 political ad spending will top $8 billion, with over $1 billion on digital ads alone.

Below are four ways in which digital and social media advertising are changing politics.

Campaigns are investing more in digital

Digital advertising reinforces other outreach efforts and campaigns and causes are allocating more of their budgets to digital buys. In December 2015, The New York Times reported that digital ad spending is projected to grow by 13.5 percent in 2016. The cost of serving a digital ad is a fraction of the cost compared to traditional mediums.

Source: WebpageFX

Source: WebpageFX

An online presence creates legitimacy

The internet is not going anywhere, and technology will only be further integrated into society. Nearly two-thirds of US adults use social media, and for many, it is the first source for news and information gathering. Online ads not only put campaigns in a position of power by bolstering efforts, but also provide an easy way to communicate relevant news and messaging to an increasingly captive audience.

A lack of an online presence can very well mean that a candidate or cause does not exist in the eyes of a voter. Social movements such as Black Lives Matter and Occupy Wall Street have grown exponentially by coordinating online activity with live demonstrations and rallies and ensuing media coverage.

Social media has created greater accountability

Social media platforms allow for voters to experience a deeper level of connectivity with a campaign, and every post, tweet, and policy stance is scrutinized by the world. The internet is the great equalizer; everyone has a soapbox and 39% of US adults engage in political activities via social networking sites. It takes a split second to become a trending topic, and all of the presidential candidates have trended on Twitter this election cycle over accusations of flip-flopping on issues. As a result, candidates may have to spend the following new cycle justifying their stance or retracting a statement for fear of losing votes.