Politicians follow wherever voters take them, and today’s voter spends a lot more time than ever before on social networking sites like Facebook. People watch less television, read fewer newspapers and magazines and hardly listen to the radio at all. Politicians get far less bang for the buck advertising on “mainstream media” than they used to, and they are turning toward social sites in increasing numbers. The primary purpose, of course, is to get themselves elected. Once in office, the next campaign starts immediately, and then the politicians do everything they can to get re-elected. There are more subtle internal machinations, but the upshot is that social media is here to stay, and politicians recognize this. Some of the reasons and reasons-within-reasons that social networking has become so important are listed here.
- Social “Street Cred” – On one hand are politicians who wish to present themselves as wise men, full of pomp and circumstance. On the other hand, the same people also want to be seen as youthful and “with it”, and this is why there is such a scramble to achieve an internet presence.
- The Joneses – Politicians feel compelled to do what others in their field are doing, and if one politician thinks he can curry voter favor through constant Twittering, then a host of others will soon follow suit.
- Sound Bite – Micro-blogging is a great way to emit sound-bite philosophy. It is short and sweet. It can say a lot or it can say nothing. It’s more appealing to a hurry-up audience.
- Cheap – Politicians can get the word out to millions of potential votes without shelling out the big bucks that it would take to get the same results from television advertising.
- Attacks – Micro-blogs like Facebook and Twitter allow for instant attacks and retaliations, and a lot of back-pedaling, coupled with amazingly insincere apologizing.
- Virtual Reality – Blog watchers have pointed out an interesting incongruity. Politicians who use the social media extensively are perceived as more “real” than are those who do less on the internet and more in the real world.
- The New Norm – Through the 2008 elections use of resources like Youtube, Twitter and Facebook were still something of a novelty. Now, a politician who isn’t exploiting social media in some way is a rarity.
- Toothpaste – Some politicians (see next two items) have learned the hard way that airing something on a social network is tantamount to squeezing toothpaste out of a tube, and then trying to put the toothpaste back into the tube. It just doesn’t work very well.
- The Naked Truth – Former Congressmen Anthony Weiner and Christopher Lee, and the emphasis is on “former”, found out how important the social media could be. Both bared themselves for the camera, in separate instances, and then made the pictures available to women who were not their wives via these means.
- Instant broadcast – When politicians make mistakes while using any of the social media the results are almost instantaneous, they are broadcast to the entire world and they are extremely difficult to refute. That alone has led politicians to take social media very seriously.
Within a few years it may become apparent that micro-blogs are the “mainstream media” and radio, print and television are somewhere on the sidelines.
Article by Kate Croston