So what’s going on in this digital world we have become so accustomed to calling our home? This world where social media is not just an app on our phones or a link on our computers, but our entertainment, news source, and actual lifeline; may very well may be what swings our upcoming 2016 Presidential Election.
When President Barack Obama was first elected into office back in 2008, Facebook was an infant with only about 100 million users. That number may not seem small, but it’s nothing compared to today’s 1,390,000,000 users. Twitter wasn’t even a factor. President Obama’s 2008 victory tweet was only retweeted less than 200 times, while the 2012 re-election victory tweet was retweeted almost over 800,000 times (University of North Carolina study by professor Daniel Kreiss).
In the coming elections, candidates like Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump have and will continue to use their personal social media accounts to their advantage.
Today, Millennials are more focused on social media platforms that are more like Instagram and Snapchat—one of which that has spotlights more on photos and videos, live streaming of events and disappearing posts. Although Facebook still has the highest reach to users, these two relatively newer social media sites are more popular with the younger demographics. For example, in the most recent debates, Snapchat had over a 500 second recap of live streaming from the audience at the first political debate, with user geotags. So, when people snapchatted their locations at debates, their photos/videos were included in the live Snapchat recap – bringing the voters directly into the election story.
How will all this impact the election? Well, this is the first election in which Millennials will be allowed to vote. Their generation is becoming most dominant and the most saavy with social media – their buy in, could cause a viral response. So, although some of the candidates may be new to the social media scene, the Millennials have never known life without it and they are well prepared to use it.
Hillary Clinton confesses her social media naivety. In 2007, she released a video announcing her plans for presidency saying that although she “couldn’t visit everyone’s living room, I can try,” with the implication that she planned to reach voters electronically. Clinton’s camp has utilized many social networking sites as a social strategy, which includes commenting on trending posts, regular updates, and “Storying” things via Clinton’s Snapchat account.
Donald Trump, on the other hand, hits the political scene hard as America’s most prized businessman-turned-politician. While some question his approach, Trump seems to be doing something right because he’s been the talk of almost everything presidential since finally announcing his running. In July of 2015, “Facebook reported…that 3.4 million people shared information about Trump 6.4 million times in the 24 hours after he “tossed his hat in the ring,” making Trump the strongest Republican candidate. Since then, Trump’s tweets have been called “vulgar” or “callous,” but he’s being talked about on social and mainstream media – placing him exactly where he wants to be at this stage of candidacy.
The 2016 election is going to be a game-changing year. Not just because it may be the year a business mogul or a female could hold the highest office, but also because social media has the power to influence how voters will choose our nation’s next leader.
On that note, we just have to wait and see (or scroll through, double tap and retweet) what the aspiring Presidents post in the coming weeks.