University of MemphisFogelman College of Business and EconomicsSocial Media in PoliticsProfessor BreyMarketing 7546Vince Carr4/7/2012
General Overview:Over the past decade, social media has grown exponentially in the way it impact people’s lives fromevery perspective to politics. During the 2000 presidential election, most communication occurred viathe traditional methods of campaigning including phone lists, mailers, and some email. Most electroniccommunication occurred through Blackberries in the form of text messages and eventually email. Bythe 2008 presidential election, the use of social media had increased exponentially, largely influenced bythe introduction of Facebook, Twitter, and smart phone technology. It has become apparent, duringthis time, that to be a successful candidate or to effectively communicate with one’s constituents,elected officials must use a wide array of social media tools. Here we will explore what are some ofthose tools and how are they used. The author will also provide examples of how to use these socialtools both effectively and ineffectively.History of Trend:Social media came of age with the advent of the Internet. However, political involvement did not takeoff until the original form of social media, known as blogs, was created. Before blogs, most people gottheir political news from mass media outlets such as major and local newspapers, Sunday morning talkshows, or cable news. These information outlets, however, were going in one direction; watchers andreaders could not actively participate in the conversation. The emergence of blogs and blogging pavedthe path to two-way conversation. Over the years, this trend has only continued to expand with theintroduction of social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace. Content communities such asYouTube, Flicker, and Twitter (a form of micro-blogging) have allowed for this accelerated growth.Politicians slowly began to realize the impact of these types of social media outlets. It was not until2008 presidential election that politicians began to harness the power of social media. Barack Obama isan outstanding example of the benefit of successfully harnessing the power of the social medial andusing it to gain the advantage (Galarza).Impacts Occurring Due to this Trend:Recent history has shown social media in has grown exponentially since the 2008 election cycle. One ofthe reasons for this is the sheer number of users on using social media sites. According toPingdom.com, by the end of 2011 there were over 800 million users on Facebook. Moreover, there werea staggering 140 million active users on Twitter during this same time; this includes 100 million tweetingapproximately 340 million tweets a day. Furthermore, there is currently more than 70 million activeblogs and over 2.4 billion people using social networking sites worldwide (Pingdom).The number of people using social media has doubled since the 2008 elections. Women, whencomparing the use of social media by gender, make up 58% of the total users. The percent of male usersusing social media dropped by 3% since this time. According to the Pew Research center, 22% ofAmerican adults used social networking sites for political information during the 2010 elections (Tracey).Understanding these statistics is a driving force in politicians placing emphasis on the female vote in theupcoming election.
The chart below outlines the comparison how social media was used in the political arena in 2008 verses2010 and a projection of use for the upcoming 2012 election.As mentioned earlier, blogging paved the way to the utilization of social media in the discussion ofpolitics. Politicians monitor blogs to gain an understanding of what their constituents are talking abouton a personalized level. Blogs also express the shift of how large numbers of people are thinking, ratherthan the traditional listening to what being discussed by political commentators. Blogs are a good way ofevaluating the emotional side of what people are thinking. Thus revealing a more complete picture oftheir constituent’s thoughts (Galarza).Facebook is a major focus area whereby candidates can take serious advantage of networking withpotential voters. During the 2010-midterm elections, 1 in 5 Americans said they used social media togather political information from sites such as Facebook and MySpace. Because social media sites arewidely used by a demographic that does not usually vote, politicians were able to use Facebook andMySpace to get their messages out to this population; they are able to tap into the youth vote. Theseyoung voters have historically been a difficult to get to the polls. In the 18 to 24-year-old bracket, nearly90% participate in some form of social networking. This clearly reflects the advantage of using Facebookfor political purposes. In fact, there is a Facebook page called ”U.S. Politics on Facebook” with 185,145“LIKES” and 1,117 “Talking about this.” Facebook offers the ability for constituents to tell politiciansexactly what they are thinking in direct and immediate way. Unlike previous elections whereconstituents would write letters and wait for weeks for a possible a response. Facebook also allows forpoliticians to explain their position on the policies in a more open and conversational manner. This
allows for elected officials to show a more personal side of themselves by providing a personalcomments, pictures, and videos. While the actual amount of communication may be limited, it doesprovide for a platform for open communications between the officials and the citizens (Schlesinger).Twitter has become a very powerful weapon in the arsenal of political discourse over the last few years.Twitter, who just recently celebrated its sixth birthday, has become the best, and fastest, method forboth politicians and voters to microblog about their feelings and opinions. Some 73 percent of adultInternet users went online to get up-to-date information in the 2010 elections. Moreover, 22 percent ofthese users were accessing information through Twitter (Gaudin). Of all the US congressional membersthere are 252 currently using Twitter to send and receive political information. In the form of tweets,elected officials can communicate with their constituents using 140 characters or less. Tweets providereal-time access to their voters and allow for their personal feelings to be expressed more freely thanone might see on Facebook or other social media outlets. Tweets represent two-way conversation aswell because messages can be directed to a person with the use of the “@” sign. Twitter also enablesmore direct interaction between the voters and politicians because everything is done in real time.More and more politicians are choosing Twitter to be their primary way to stay in touch with theirconstituents (McKinnon).Case Example #1:The first case example that reflects the impact of social media on elections and politicians is thesuccessful use by President Obama during the 2008 election. The Obama campaign championed socialmedia like no politician before him. His campaign used social media to organize locally, raise money,fight smear campaigns, and motivate voters to action to topple the Clinton machine and then JohnMcCain. The Obama campaign also used Twitter and Facebook to create a massive database of millionsof supporters that could be engaged in instantly. Obama’s competition was still using longstandingtechniques such as voter lists, phone banks, and direct mail. But those methods turned out be crude andexpensive compared to the Obama Camp (Carr). Obama was able to harness social media to create asense of community, connection, and engagement while spending much less money than hiscompetition.In the charts below, one can see the difference in usage of social media by John McCain’s electioncampaign and Senator Barrack Obama. The first chart reflects the difference in MySpace and Facebookusage between Obama and McCain. The second chart reflects the overall blog mentions comparingObama to McCain. It shows there were nearly were 500 million blog postings for Obama and only about150 million blog posting mentioning McCain (Lardinois).
Case Example #2:Another example of how social media can impact politics in a negative way. A case in point is the wayTwitter was used by a powerful and popular Democratic congressman. Anthony Weiner encountered anenormous downfall with his Twitter scandal. A scandal so public, and embedded in social media, that itended his career with the U.S. House of Representatives in May of 2010 and possibly destroyed anyfuture political ambitions. When Weiner posted a picture of his crotch on Twitter, and immediatelydeleted it. However, because of the immediate nature of social networking, the damage was alreadydone. The congressman than claimed his Twitter account was hacked, only to come forward and admitthat he posted the picture, for which he lost all credibility. Even though sexual misconduct has beenpervasive in politics for many, many years, the introduction of social media forums magnifies swift andnegative impacts. Weiner admitted that he had at least 6 different encounters through Facebook andTwitter with young women, sending lewd and inappropriate pictures and comments over a 3 year period(Miga).Organizational Perception – Case Example #1:When the Obama campaign decided to use social media as a tool during his presidential run, hiscampaign hired a specialist who has extensive knowledge about social media. They hired MarkAndreessen, founder of Netscape and a board member of Facebook. The campaign realized theimportance of harnessing social media outlets, such as Facebook and MySpace, to increase theengagement level with their voters. Their success was proven when results almost immediately after theelection showed that Obama had a lead in using technology to connect with his audience, as well as anoverall lead in mindshare in the blogosphere as a whole. Moreover, the demographics of social mediaduring the 2008 election cycle reflected that social media users tended to fall in line more closely withDemocratic voters (McKinnon).Organizational Perception – Case Example #2:
The impact of Twitter on Congressman Anthony Weiner’s demise reflects the perils of using socialmedia. Had the congressman considered the impact of using Facebook and Twitter while in his positionas a statesman rather than for personal gratification, he may have survived his fall from grace. SinceWeiner did not admit to his tweets he opened the opportunity for his opponents to dig deeper, into hissocial media usage and discover that he had been using Facebook to meet, talk to, and shareinappropriate pictures with numerous women. Although social media can be and effective tool forpoliticians to personalize themselves to their constituents, there should always be a clear line betweenpersonal and professional behavior. Furthermore, elected officials should have a better understandingof both the negative and positive impacts of using social media tools.Direct Application to Case #1:A direct application to case #1 would be to have companies mimic the same process used by the ObamaCampaign to market to perspective customers for their goods and/or services. As with the campaign,the companies would be able to pull new demographics of customers and create two-way conversationsabout the goods and services. The would also be able to create large databases of their customers sothey could communicate instantaneously as the Obama Campaign to their supporters.Direct Application to Case #2:Tweets provide real time access to politicians and allow them to be in constant contact with theirconstituents. Twitter is used to communicate or announce where a candidate plans to be and what hisor her opinion is on an current events at an amazingly rapid rate. Just like politicians understanding howto use Twitter and other social media outlets, companies need to have very set ground rules whenhaving employee use the company Facebook or Twitter page. They should understand what isconsidered appropriate conversation and what is considered over the line.Interviewee Results:For the interview portion of this paper, the author contacted Brad Shimmin, an Industry Analyst atCurrent Analysis, who specializes in covering collaboration technologies. He has a keen eye onenterprise networking. Mr. Shimmin believes all future elections must effectively use social media to aspart of their campaign program and use these tools in communication with their constituents. Hebelieves the two most effective tools are Twitter and Facebook. He does not really believe that Twitteris a good tool for back and forth communication, but rather really a tool for politicians to broadcastinformation, which he said is the real reason Twitter was created. He said since information isconstantly being updated, it’s not a viable place for anything other than broadcasting. On the otherhand, Mr. Shimmin does believe Facebook was a great venue for politicians to communicate with theirvoters. Facebook, however, offers politicians an opportunity to get in-depth with discussions andexplanations and further allows constituents to offer feedback. Voters can scroll back and look at the“timeline” to review past communications, whereas Twitter is not really effective in this manner. Mr.Shimmin does believe the competiveness between Twitter and Facebook will only prove to enhanceboth products and will continue to be very viable tools for politicians to communicate with their voters.
How Business Landscape Impacts Trend:Social media has become the marketing strategy for politics. Using social media to get their messagesout is significantly cheaper than traditional ways of communication with their constituents. Phonebanks and mailers are becoming obsolete in comparison to Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.Information is posted in real time and constituents now have a more direct route in contacting theirelected officials. This allows politicians to get a pulse on what their voters think about their positions onissues and bills being proposed in government. At the same time, this allows voters a chance to see amore personal side of the elected officials.Consumer Segments Specifically Impacted:The two charts below provide details on what segments of the country used social media during the2008 (Pan) election as well as data on the 2010 midterm election cycles (Smith). The numbers willcontinue to grow as most politicians turn to social media communication for perspective voters andtheir constituents.
Potential Future Changes in the Trend:Politics and social media are a perfect match. Because of this, it provides a platform for the politician toconnect with the constituents in real time on a more personable level. Social media is coming toreplace traditional ways constituents communicate with their politicians and vice-versa. In the future,the primary way constituents will be communicating with their elected official will be through Facebook.As more and more Facebook users become accustomed to this media platform, it will become theprimary method of communication. Social media will eventually be fully incorporated in the dailyoperation of the United States Congress. Constituents will have the ability to voice their opinion directlyto their congressional members, even as they are considering how they may vote on a bill in real time(Silverman).What is Needed to Maintain Competitive Advantage?
To maintain competitive advantage, politicians must to stay abreast of the social media tools. Theyshould not start a Facebook or Twitter page and not constantly monitor or managing the site. Politiciansshould be regularly monitoring blogs and other social media tools and provide feedback and explanationwhenever possible. For any candidate to be successful in getting elected or re-elected, they must learnto effectively use the social media tools oavailable to them.
References:Carr, David. How Obama Tapped Into Social Networks’ Power. 09 Nov 2008. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/10/business/media/10carr.htmlGarlarza, Alex. Social Media in Modern Politics. 30 Jun 2011. http://history.msu.edu/hst250/2011/06/30/social-media-in-modern-politics/Lardinois, Frederic. Obma’s Social Media Advantage. 05 Nov 2008. http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/social_media_obama_mccain_comparison.phpMiga, Anthony. Anthony Weiner Photos and Twitter Scandal : A Timeline. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/06/11/anthony-weiner-photos-twitter-_n_875463.htmlPingdom. Internet 2011 in Numbers. 17 Jan 2012. http://royal.pingdom.com/2012/01/17/internet-2011- in-numbers/Pan, JoAnn. Election 2012: Voters Expect Candidates to Be on Social Media (INFOGRAPHIC). http://mashable.com/2012/02/01/social-media-election-infographic/Reilly, Amanda. Chuck Grassley Calls President Stupid’ Over Supreme Court Comments. 07 Apr 2012. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/07/chuck-grassley-obama-stupid-supreme- court_n_1410098.html?ref=politicsSchlesinger, Jennifer. Votes, Photos, and Book Recommendations: How Politicians Use Facebook. 15 Dec 2010. http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/politicians-facebook-photos-videos-votes-reach- constituents/story?id=12358070Silverman, Matt. The Future of Social Media and Politics. 01 Nov 2010. http://mashable.com/2010/11/01/future-social-media-politics/Smith, Aaron. The Internet and Campaign 2010. http://pewinternet.org/Reports/2011/The-Internet- and-Campaign-2010/Section-3.aspxTracey, Bree. Social Media May Attract Women Voters. 06 Apr 2012. http://politics.blogs.foxnews.com/2012/04/06/social-media-may-attract-women-voters
Bio Page:Brad Shimmin is a Industry Analyst at Current Analysis. In this position, he tracks, analyzes, and providesintelligence on enterprise collaboration vendors. His area of expertise focuses on how social mediasites, like Facebook and Twitter are used and how they affect users. He graduated from Utah StateUniversity in 1989 with a B.A. in English, German, Philosophy and Archeology. He graduated MagnaCum Laude.