Four years ago we sat in front of our televisions and watched Barack Obama win the election, sort of. The key word here is “watched”, but that all changed with Sara Palin, win or lose, love or hate, she began her campaign through her fingertips by what we now call “tweeting” her followers. Her tweets ran ramped all over the internet as she contaminated the Twitter accounts of her followers and non-following followers. She connected to an audience base that wanted to listen and she was heard, for a little bit.
Just as quick as Twitter can promote a person it can also have the opposite effect. Your Twitter feeds are only as good as the one writing them, and it was pretty clear, Palin was writing her own posts. Before long, her true followers were competing with her opposition and the rest is history. In all fairness we can’t give the queen of Alaska all the credit for increasing the social media buzz because social media has been around for over a decade now. However, she certainly gave it the push it needed to be heard around the world and even though it didn’t work in her case, politicians took notice at how particularly effective social media was and now more than ever, is.
As it seems now, it is unfeasible to get on your Facebook without seeing posts about either side politically, and why they are the better candidate. Whether it is from our friends, the groups we follow, or our friend’s friends, we are constantly in each other’s political lives whether we like it or not. We are showered on a daily basis, with Twitter feed, Facebook posts and Google+1’s etc., but is it annoying enough to prevent us from reading? No. Because we are so attached and want to be so connected, we want to listen, have our voices heard, and be validated on a daily basis through our social media. We want our voice to overcome our opposition so badly we stop at nothing to establish our reality. It is one big race to the middle. Candidates can use us to set in motion their information, and if their Intel is scathing enough against the other candidate, we will push that onto our followers and friends too. The politicians and political movement groups of this country and around the world have managed to use us as tools to get out their information and we are more than willing participants. This is why SM in the political arena is so essential and so implausibly successful.
I’ve always considered myself a relatively political person, by trying to stay implicated with what is going on in the world internationally and locally. However, recently I have found myself pulling the plug on my own personal political opinions on my SM sites simply I am more concerned with informing myself instead of someone else informing about what I should be believing or how I should vote. I have become more in tuned with the newspaper and Twitter feeds of all kinds in no order of importance, NPR, BBC, CNN, WSJ, HUFFING POST, NY TIMES, MSN, DIGG, FOX, CBS WORLD REPORT etc… I am a follower of all the news choices around the world, globally, nationally, and locally. In addition to this, with the heated political fight, I find myself, more drawn to Twitter than Facebook anyways, simply because Twitter users have to keep their statements to 140 characters or less. This means they have to be more resourceful in what they are saying and why they are stating it, which means I have less to read and it takes most of the personal opinion out of the piece and focuses more on the facts. I lose attention very rapidly when I see “so and so is a liar because he did this, this and this”. Whereas, on Twitter, the posts are short and sweet and “oh here is the quick link to my reference article or blog”. I have found that I am not bombarded with ridiculous imagery and quickly designed gif’s stating what one candidate did over the other in the past 4 years. Now don’t get me wrong I am definitely a huge advocate of Facebook but for this current election I’m sticking to my Twitter.
Politicians are smart by using SM to get their message out. I mean really honestly think about it, they spend less time on the road and more time sitting behind the scenes taking score with polls and looking and SM statistics and demographics. It’s crazy right, but when it comes down to it, political voices are nothing but glorified marketing campaigns. Not only can politicians touch us daily with their information and news feed, they can connect directly with their audience and they too are heard, and in the age of SM, people are listening and responding! But this voice is a two-way street, for the first time, we have a voice as a people. By a couple of clicks and taps on the keyboard, we can connect to our own political arena and we too, can be heard. It’s brilliant.
Just to make a point let’s look at the candidates post and present’s Twitter stats. The idea behind these stats is not telling us who is going to win the election but they can tell us how many, how much and who they are connected to worldwide. In addition to that they can tell us who is the marketer and how well they have done thus far. I am putting Sarah Palin on here, to show the interesting comparison of her numbers compared to the other candidates during the past 4 years. Romney has been running for the past 2 years, and has been Governor of Massachusetts, yet his numbers are only slightly above a candidate (Palin) that was running for VP 4 years ago while Obama’s numbers are through the roof on all counts which proves his use of Social Media as a marketing tool to be vastly effective.
Barack Obama – 21.4 million Twitter followers – 7500 Tweets – Following 671,000
Mitt Romney – 1.6 million Twitter followers – 1300 Tweets – Following 1200
Sarah Palin – 860,000 Twitter followers – 1251 Tweets – Following 128
The numbers are quite staggering if you ask me. If you look at the importance of Twitter and how implausible the reach is, you will not undervalue the numbers simply because it proves its effectiveness. Why is it more valuable over FB or GOOGLE+, because you can connect with that individual. All in all, that voice of ours is heard from the ears of the person that matter to us. In addition to that, we are able to connect with people who have that common interest; it humanizes SM, just a little bit. For instance, when watching the final debate, at one point I couldn’t handle it anymore, I had to turn it off. So I got on Twitter and read about it and read what others were thinking and feeling, I wasn’t alone, I felt validated by these cyber strangers all the while I felt heard. I follow both candidates because I want to know what the campaigns are doing and what sets them apart from each other. The next day when the NY Times and WSJ fact checkers came out I read it on Twitter and followed the news feed all day on Facebook and Twitter. The Twitter numbers above mean something. There is a greater tool at work here. It is called creating the divide. Very clearly in this country politics are divided by two largest party powerhouses, REPUB/DEMS. You are either Red or Blue depending on how you choose to vote. Not only can candidates get there hooks into their followers but they have the capability to polarize people’s beliefs and empower them to push that news onto their friends and followers. It’s a vicious cycle, but by creating this divide, and power it is extraordinarily efficient.
The muscle of SM is staggering and shouldn’t be underrated. We will see more and more of this in the years to come, my wish is that it doesn’t imbalance the purity of raw communication, but I’m afraid I’m a bit of dreamer; I still yearn for that organic approach even though I am part of the SM spider web I like the real hello’s, goodbyes and the genuine laugh out loud. I still like the shaking hands and kissing babies campaigns. Selfishly though, I like the opportunity to be able to connect personally with a candidate, or interest group and Twitter gives me this option, but I want it all, I want the personal contact, but I also want my voice to be heard and to know what others are thinking in a non-biased format. I guess in the end, love it or hate it, SM is here to stay, but that doesn’t mean that we have to do away with that organic human interaction. It just means as a society we have to find balance between what we read, what we believe and what we want to say…our voice is our own so choose your words wisely!
In the words of Benjamin Franklin: “Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.”