Social Media and Politics: Match Made In Heaven or a Toxic Coupling?
Media and democracy go hand in hand. To make informed choices during elections, voters research candidate’s policies and get detailed information about party platforms from news media sources like blogs, television broadcasts, and – most recently -social media platforms. The U.S. has made political advertising a major business and social media has facilitated this growth at exponential rates. The most profound examples of politicians using social media to its fullest extent were Barack Obama in the 2008 Presidential election and, most recently, Donald Trump in this past year’s election.
Many believe that Obama would not have won the 2008 election if it weren’t for his heavy utilization of social media. I tend to agree with this sentiment. Obama’s administration boasted being the first to utilize platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. His campaign was undoubtedly won due to his engagement with youth through these platforms coupled with the help of a core team of volunteers who meticulously managed his wave of support. I found myself both impressed and intrigued by his desire to embrace these newer forms of media and gladly jumped on the bandwagon of his supporters and “followers”. Obama, who often lovingly referred to himself as a “nerd”, had a keen interest in science and technology. These passions were the cornerstone in his administration’s acute management of communication through the utilization of today’s digital tools.
Whether you love him or hate him, there’s no denying that Trump utilized social media during his campaign for presidency like a pawn in a brilliant game of chess. I don’t believe you could put an actual dollar figure on the amount of free advertising that Trump obtained through his crafty use of social media. Boasting tens of millions of followers, Twitter was Trump’s most prolific platform. His frequent Twitter outbursts drove news cycles and even inspired television networks to dedicate panelists to the specific task of analyzing the implications of the POTUS’ latest tweets. It can’t be denied that Trump’s mastery of media tools led to his presidential triumph.
Barack Obama and Donald Trump provide two contrasting examples of how prominent politicians have used the emergence of social media to their advantage. One fact remains true: favorable or unfavorable press coverage during a campaign seems to be less important than garnering the coverage itself.