Should Politicians Use Social Media?

The short answer is yes, and no. It seems politicians are suckers for the times. We all have read how Nixon lost to Kennedy because of TV and I remember reading somewhere about fireside chats (Wikipedia it if you must) as a tool to reach the masses. All of this has led me to believe politicians should and should not use social media.

Let me explain; I picked those two examples of politicians using new media as a tool to reach their public very carefully. These two examples, Kennedy and Roosevelt, represent two very different sides of the same coin. The coin is media outreach and the sides are political ends.

Take the first example: televised political events during an election. Kennedy knew he was more ‘dashing’ than Nixon and the masses were sick of the same old same old politicians so it was advantageous for Kennedy to show himself on T.V. as a dashing younger man.

If you watched the debate, Nixon debates with skill and with candor but he looks terrible. Kennedy, doing his best guy next store, is seen as dashing. The substance of the debate was overshadowed by the flash of new technology.

This is how many politicians today are approaching social media. They are not using social media tools to provide the public with more insight or better connection to government. Instead they are using these tools as a way to flash a smile and show the public how ‘new age’ their campaigns are.

Now think of Roosevelt’s use of the fireside chat. Roosevelt was already President, a fairly popular one due to his public works projects, yet he took the advice of his speech writer and adopted a new technology to reach his public.

If you have ever listened to any of chats (read them here) you will hear that they are not political tools but instead a vehicle of the President to reach people who otherwise would have not heard the President. The chats are masterfully crafted and explain to the public how the President would lead them out of the worst depression in the nation’s history.

That is the purpose I would like to see modern politicians use social media for. Don’t use it as a tool to panderer to the public for votes; use it as a tool to educate the public. Social media can allow a politician to have total disclosure (scary) with their public.

So to answer my own question: politicians should only use social media to educate, not to sway votes. Like no time before politicians on every level have a chance to connect with the people they represent. I think they should take this opportunity to really reach the public, not just tell them how to vote.

Do you know of any politicians who have really used social media to connect with the people? I have followed most of the major campaigns and I can say that most of them have missed the point. I don’t know of any smaller campaigns that have connected using social media, but I would love to hear about them.