Social media at its simplest definition allows anyone to connect with each other through online communication. Because it can be accessed anywhere there is Internet, social media is often credited with giving a voice to those who feel unheard. This rings true now more than ever with the upcoming presidential election that is inspiring people to speak out about the candidates and issues that they feel need to be addressed. Social media is already playing a huge role in each candidate’s campaigns because they are aware that if they want to have an edge on their opponents, they have to be strategic and mindful of how they use these sites to connect with the public.
That being said, much of what happens over social media is organic and coming from individuals that are crafting messages themselves versus media outlets leading the entire conversation. Given the overall freedom of social media, no individual entity has full control over the messages that are being shared during the highly publicized events throughout the campaign process. This includes the carefully crafted communication strategies built by campaign staff that could be ruined by the public in mere minutes. Candidates will either hit the jackpot or be completely torn to shreds from a simple meme or quote that has the potential to spread across social media quicker than you can say, “I retract my previous statement.”
Regardless, the public nature of social media gives candidates the ability to understand the issues that are most important to the average citizen. In order to show the public that they are paying attention, it’s vital that the messages sent over social media from these candidates are curated with as much care as an advertisement made for television or radio. While Facebook and Twitter remain the largest social media platforms, Snapchat, Instagram and Peach have been noted as the next best emerging media platforms for candidates to pay attention to. According to a Hillary Clinton campaign representative, the audiences between Snapchat and Instagram overlap, but they still respond to content in different ways. Snapchat can “humanize,” while Instagram can “go viral”; two things that are now critical within a communication strategy overall.
What goes “viral” on social media is unpredictable and sometimes unexplainable, but if a candidate is willing to take a chance on a strategy that could set them apart from the rest, they will reap the benefits.
Danielle Bilotta @DanielleLMB
Emerging Media Graduate Student