In recent years, the use of social media in politics has become increasingly prevalent and has made a substantial impact on the way in which we interact with political figures. Since the 2008 US election, which many have dubbed the ‘Facebook Election’, the number of political figures increasing their usage of these platforms has expanded significantly. This change has led to political figures becoming far more accessible and accountable to the broader public.
More than that though, public participation in politics has also hit a new level. If you think of the 2016 US elections, it’s not difficult to remember the many hashtags or the meme wars that came out of it. Who doesn’t remember things like: #MakeAmericaGreatAgain, #NastyWoman and #Thedeplorables.
It didn’t stop there
The political activism didn’t stop with the election, however, but continued beyond it every day with fresh memes and posts about people’s favourite politicians. It’s more than just posting funny content though, people are also coming out on their preferred platforms to state their opposition or support of certain elected officials and are, in effect, providing them with free political advertising. Something many politicians would kill for.
Politicians are always scrambling for airtime on whatever platform in order to remain relevant. With the use of social media, political figures need to constantly come out with interesting content to ensure that they are kept in people’s news feeds. As Nicholas Carr put it, “you’re only as relevant as your latest tweet”.
When you think about the Canadian context, would you expect to hear that the hashtag exposure per hour for #cdnpoli is over 170,000? Or that the exposure for #primeminister is over 2000? #Trudeau receives a much lower exposure of only 283 per hour, but that is significantly higher than Scheer or Singh, who don’t feature on ritetag.com at all.
You could say that Canada is still easing into the political game on social media by comparison to our neighbours to the south, but that may not be the worst thing.
The Trump card
These Canadian figures are nothing compared to the US. For example, #Trump’s hashtag exposure per hour is a staggering 15,902,629.
My feelings aside, Trump is extraordinarily adept at capturing an audience on social media. Love him or hate him, he’s got the idea down pat. He knows just how to bait and feed his audience and knows exactly what to do to dominate online discussions by provoking those around him. Just look at the tweet below as an example.
If you support him, the tweet is great. You know roughly where he’s headed based on the statement that he’s made. If you don’t like him, this statement is inflammatory enough that you will probably retweet it and make some negative comment about him. As we know, even negative attention can have some positive impacts, especially for someone as well known as Trump.
Posts Can Harm and Help
That said though, I believe that politicians can no longer put thoughts out into the world without carefully considering the consequences. Tweets or posts can have the ability to pose serious threats to our world, whether that be to peace, security, provoking hatred and violence, and so on. It can take a team to carefully curate a political figure’s social media presence. This obviously isn’t the case for Donald Trump, however, it certainly is something that he should consider going forward if he wants to avoid utter catastrophe.
These posts, memes, and viral videos also have the ability to shape political ideas and ultimately policy. For example, some of you may be familiar with the “Between Two Ferns” interview between Zach Galifianakis and Barack Obama. The video covered a lot of ridiculous content, but also had a strategic goal for the White House. They were aiming to increase traffic to Healthcare.gov. The video now has over 22,230,000 views and according to one source, the video drove more 19,000 referral visits to Healthcare.gov within a matter of hours. All that free play, for no cost.
All that said, we must be cognizant of what is being put out into the world through social media channels politically and ensure that we are participating in the political sphere in the most responsible way that we can. I think that going forward, political engagement on social media will become more significant and by maintaining our engagement, we can try to ensure that positive changes are being made.
Do you follow political figures on social media? Do you think that what we say on social media has the ability to affect political thought and action?
The political game on social media, a look at the good, the bad and the ugly – http://bit.ly/2ytJ8eb #politics
Social media is changing the way that we engage in politics. Let’s take a look at the good, the bad and the ugly – http://bit.ly/2ytJ8eb