Social Media is Changing the Nature of Political Campaigns

By Kimberlee Morrison Comment

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When social media is involved, politics can become a very dangerous game. When every speech, appearance, and remark can be recorded for posterity journalists tend to take advantage of that fact. As a result, politicians are becoming more guarded, and some are even using social media themselves to cut journalists off at the pass.

According to Washington Post reporter Chris Cilizza:

[S]eeing a politician doing or saying something stupid was infinitely more powerful than reading about the stupid thing they said or did. We are a visual culture; we like to SEE things to truly understand them (or to be truly offended or impressed by them.) YouTube made that possible for every American with an Internet connection or a phone.

Video is particularly attractive to social media users, if the success of Facebook’s video campaigns are any indication. Social media also is a very fast news surfacing service, and anything newsworthy that reaches social sites will spread like wildfire. What’s more, we’ve seen a growing focus on video apps and video focused social networks.

Apps like Periscope and Meerkat could easily provide an even faster, and less controllable, platform for cataloging the remarks of politicians. If users decided that Periscope is for news, then there will likely be a Periscope broadcast of every event political campaign event.

Because of this uncontrollable exposure, politicians may be moving toward not engaging with the media, or even the public. The result could be politicians only agreeing to recorded appearances carefully managed by their own teams.

Cilizza writes:

[P]oliticians and their staff members quickly grasped that the ease and popularity of YouTube presented them with a powerful way to end-run the media.

The worry always exists that social media is polarizing our politics. While some studies indicate otherwise, if the majority of political video messaging becomes pre-recorded and untouchable, there may be less debate on social media about politics. That might make for a peaceful Facebook feed, but a less informed voting populace.

Running a successful political campaign is all about appearing to have the best reputation. We know that social media can tear a reputation to shreds, and the damage can last for years. Video has already made significant impacts on the campaigning process, and with more mobile video tools available than ever before, its impact will surely continue.

Image courtesy of Harry Hu / Shutterstock.com.

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