During a recent by-election in my neighborhood, I started following one of the candidates to see if indeed they were really trying to engage their followers. But since the election, I haven’t seen any posts at all!
I’m thinking about the recent rise of social media use by politicians and I wonder if the candidates’ use of social media was just to win the election or were they just trying to use something during the election that’s “new and cool” to convince voters that they are keeping up with the times?
Here is a link to the orginal post on PCWorld- and reproduced below.
After seeing some tweets by a candidate in a recent provincial by-election in my neighbourhood, I pondered the recent rise of social media use by politicians. I wonder if the candidates’ use of social media was just to win the election or were they just trying to use something during the election that’s “new and cool” to convince voters that they are keeping up with the times?
Since the rise of mass electronic media in the last century, politicians have been trying out new technologies to communicate their messages to voters. In the early 1960s politicians were looking to the relatively new medium of television as the next big thing to connect with voters. The first televised presidential debates between Richard Nixon and John Kennedy attracted enormous publicity and would prove to be a turning point in the 1960 presidential election.
At the time, the Kennedy team knew that America was tired of the same old politicians and the team wanted to harness the relatively new medium of TV to portray Kennedy as a young, dashing politician in contrast to the more conservative Nixon. In the first debate Nixon argued his points clearly, but didn’t look as composed and relaxed on screen as Kennedy. To highlight the difference the new medium made to the results of the first debate, those watching on TV said that Kennedy won the debate and those listening on radio gave the win to Nixon.
More recently in the 2008 Presidential Race, Team Obama used social media very effectively to convert online donations into voters and channel online enthusiasm to effective on-the-ground support.
For example, in February 2008, Barack Obama did not attend any conventional campaign fundraisers. Despite that, he raised $55M in 29 days through the use of social media tools such as Twitter and Facebook. During the same period, McCain raised $11M through conventional fundraisers.
But what about after the election? Was Obama’s use of social media just to win the vote? In the case of Obama, the use of Twitter for example has continued post-election with the image below showing a recent tweet.
Closer to home, Toronto Mayor David Miller is certainly an ardent “twitterer'” using it to interact with city residents on a variety of topics from city council to Toronto FC soccer club matches.
When used authentically, social media can help politicians get their message across to motivate voters. But savvy politicians need to know that in order to retain credibility with their constituents they have to be willing to put in the time to continue to connect with their followers; if not, they run the risk of being thought of as jumping on the “new technology” bandwagon, and damaging their image and reducing their credibility.