Social Politics: Political Campaigning in a Social Media Era

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  1. Diana Owen
  2. The Three Golden Rules Of Social Media In Political Campaigns | Workfront
  3. How Social Media Can Enhance Political Campaigns

Trump regularly produces nasty and outlandish tweets to ensure that he remains at the center of attention, even as political and natural disasters move the spotlight. Twitter changes the life cycle of news as developing reports can be readily overtaken by a new story generated by a provocative tweet. The power of social media to influence politics is enhanced due to their ability to amplify messages quickly through diverse media platforms. Social media have become a steady source of political content for news outlets with large audiences, especially cable news.

Trump supporters regularly tune in to Fox News to cheer his latest Twitter exploits. Talking heads on media that view Trump more negatively, like CNN and MSNBC, spend countless hours attempting to interpret his tweets as the messages are displayed prominently on screen. The perception that Trump is powerful is enhanced simply by virtue of the amount of attention he draws. Politicians can use the amplification power of social media to galvanize public opinion and to call people to action.

These benefits of Twitter amplification have been shown to empower men substantially more than women. Male political journalists have a greater audience on Twitter than their female peers, and they are more likely to spread the political messages of men than women Usher, Holcomb, and Littman, Social media host discourse that is increasingly incivil and politically polarizing.

Offhanded remarks are now released into the public domain where they can have widespread political consequences van Dijck, He makes expansive use of adjectives, typically to describe himself in positive terms and to denigrate others. Politicians have engaged in partisan Twitter wars that have further divided Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals.

The Twitterverse is highly prone to deception. Twitter and other social media have contributed to—even fostered—the proliferation of false information and hoaxes where stories are entirely fabricated. False facts spread fast through social media. They can make their way onto legitimate news platforms and are difficult to rebut as the public has a hard time determining fact from fiction. In fact, an MIT study found that people are more likely to pass on false stories through their networks because they are often novel and generate emotional responses in readers Vosoughi, Roy, and Aral, Misinformation is often targeted at ideological audiences, which contributes the rise in political polarization.

The situation is even more severe for Twitter, where people can be completely anonymous and millions of automated bots and fake accounts have flooded the network with tweets and retweets. These bots have quickly outrun the spam detectors that Twitter has installed Manjoo, The dissemination of false information through Twitter is especially momentous amidst the uncertainty of an unfolding crisis where lies can spread much faster than the truth Vosoughi, Roy, and Aral, Misinformation and hoaxes circulated widely as the shooting of seventeen students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland Florida in February of was unfolding.

Conspiracy theories about the identity of the shooter pointed in the wrong direction. False photos of the suspect and victims were circulated. Within an hour of the shooting, Twitter accounts populated by Russian bots circulated hundreds of posts about the hot-button issue of gun control designed to generate political divisiveness Frenkel and Wakabayaski, In the weeks after the shooting, as Parkland students became activists for stronger gun control measures, conspiracy theories proliferated.

A doctored conspiracy video attacking the students was posted on YouTube and became a top trending clip on the site Arkin and Popken, The consequences of the rise of social media and the spread of false information have been elevated by the disappearance of trusted local news organizations from the media landscape.

Facebook and Twitter have been reluctant to deal effectively with the flow of misinformation through their platforms and have even refused to remove demonstrated false stories from their sites Hautala, But this move by big media companies was an exception. These circumstances have raised the potential for misinformation to unsettle the political system. However, their importance for informing and shaping opinions of people in small towns and suburban communities has often been underestimated.

People tend to trust their local news outlets, and to have faith that the journalists—who are their neighbors—will report stories accurately.

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Citizens have relied heavily on local news outlets to keep them informed about current happenings and issues that are directly relevant to their daily lives. Local news stories influence the opinions of residents and routinely impact the policy decisions made by community leaders. Importantly, audiences rely on local journalists to provide them with the facts and to act as a check on misinformation that might be disseminated by outside sources, especially as they greatly distrust national news Abernathy, His tweets can substitute for news among people living in news deserts.

Diana Owen

The concentration of media ownership in the hands of large corporations has further undermined truly local news. As independent media organizations have disappeared, they have been replaced in an increasing number of markets by platforms owned by news conglomerates. Sinclair Broadcast Group is the largest television news conglomerate in the United States and has bought out local stations across the country, including in news deserts. The company has strong ties to the Trump administration and has pushed its reporters to give stories a more conservative slant.

The digital revolution has unfolded more rapidly and has had broader, deeper, and more transformative repercussions on politics and news than any prior transition in communication technology, including the advent of television. Over the past decade, the rise in social media as a political tool has fundamentally changed the relationships between politicians, the press, and the public.

The interjection of Donald Trump into the political media mix has hastened the evolution of the media system in some unanticipated directions. The political media ecology continues to evolve. Politicians are constantly seeking alternatives to social media as a dominant form of communicating to the public. Candidates in the midterm elections turned to text messages as a campaign tool that is supplanting phone-banks and door-to-door canvassing as a way of reaching voters.

New developments in software, such as Hustle, Relay, and RumbleUp, have made it possible to send thousands of texts per hour without violating federal laws that prohibit robo-texting—sending messages in bulk. Texts are used to register voters, organize campaign events, fundraise, and advertise. The text messages are sent by volunteers who then answer responses from recipients. The strategy is aimed especially at reaching voters in rural areas and young people from whom texting is the preferred method of digital communication Ingram, The tactic also allows politicians to distance themselves from big media companies, like Facebook and Google, and the accompanying concerns that personal data will be shared without consent.

Great uncertainly surrounds the future of political communication. The foregoing discussion has highlighted some bleak trends in the present state of political communication. Political polarization has rendered reasoned judgment and compromise obsolete.

The Three Golden Rules Of Social Media In Political Campaigns | Workfront

The rampant spread of misinformation impedes responsible decision-making. The possibility for political leaders to negatively exploit the power of social media has been realized. At the same time, pendulums do shift, and there are positive characteristics of the new media era that may prevail. Digital media have vastly increased the potential for political information to reach even the most disinterested citizens. Attention to the midterm elections was inordinately high, and the ability for citizens to express themselves openly through social media has contributed to this engagement.

Issues and events that might be outside the purview of mainstream journalists can be brought to prominence by ordinary citizens. Social media has kept the MeToo movement alive as women continue to tell their stories and form online communities. Further, there is evidence of a resurgence in investigative journalism that is fueled, in part, by access to vast digital resources available for researching stories, including government archives and big data analysis.

These trends offer a spark of hope for the future of political media. Research Report.

Thwarting the Emergence of News Deserts. New Media in American Politics. New York: Oxford University Press. Dutton ed. University of Birmingham, UK. Motives and uses of Facebook. Florence, Italy, April 5— — House elections. Atlanta, Georgia: Emory University. London: Penguin Random House. New York: Lexington Books, — Vancouver, Canada: Association for Computational Linguistics, — The role of social media in activist persistence and political change in the 21st century. News Across Social Media Platforms Social Media Use in Presidential Campaigning in the Internet Age.

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How Social Media Can Enhance Political Campaigns

Economy Humanities Science Technology. Multimedia OpenMind books Authors. Featured author. Mervyn Frost. Latest book. Towards a New Enlightenment? A Transcendent Decade. Humanities Politics. Communication Enlightenment Politics Sociology. Diana Owen. Grassroots political movements have employed new media as a means of getting their message out and mobilizing supporters.

In the midterm elections, the Tea Party movement used websites, blogs, social media, and email to bring national attention to state and local candidates and to promote its antigovernment taxing and spending message Lepore, Mainstream and new media coverage of the Tea Party was substantial and resulted in increased public awareness of and momentum behind little-known candidates Project for Excellence in Journalism, At the same time, new media strategies can backfire when the mainstream press publicizes unflattering or embarrassing information about candidates.

Virtual third-party movements and nonpartisan social media—based platforms for electoral engagement gained traction in the presidential election. Americans Elect, the most visible and well-financed of these organizations, was unsuccessful in its bid to field a bipartisan presidential ticket through an online nomination process, but managed to get laws passed in more than thirty states that would allow candidates nominated through online processes to get on the ballot, setting the stage for future online presidential candidate recruitment efforts Owen, Candidates are subject to constant scrutiny, as their words and actions are closely recorded.

Reporters and average citizens can compile information and disseminate it using inexpensive technologies that link easily to networks, where rumors can be spread instantaneously. New media can sustain rumors well after an election. The relationship between traditional and new media has gone from adversarial to symbiotic, as new media have become sources of campaign information for professional journalists.

Average citizens have become prolific providers of election-related content ranging from short reactions to campaign stories to lengthy firsthand accounts of campaigns events. Mainstream media have integrated new media features into their digital platforms, which have become delivery systems for content that originates from websites, Twitter feeds, blogs, and citizen-produced videos.

As a result, messages originating in new media increasingly set the campaign agenda Pavlik, Still, established media organizations remain prominent hosts of public election discourse Gans, New media constitute an abundant source of election information for an increasing number of voters. While television remains the main source of election news for a majority of people, online sources are gaining popularity Smith, The Internet has gone from a supplementary resource for election information to a main source of news for more than a third of voters during presidential campaigns and a quarter of voters during midterm elections.

Mainstream television news exposure and hardcopy print newspaper use has dropped markedly over time. Table Main Sources of Election News.