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The changing role of social media in politics

This month we saw The White House make its first foray into using video messaging app Snapchat. This move came ahead of President Obama’s final State of Union speech and aimed to engage the younger generation of Americans, who are moving away from traditional TV viewing.

President Obama is already very active on the big social networking sites such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, setting a precedent for many modern politicians. He has been praised for having a strong but personable digital strategy that has generated valuable content, engaged supporters and maintained his reputation. The current presidential campaign by controversial candidate Donald Trump is being widely discussed as it is being pushed out via social media, gaining millions of followers in the process.

On this side of the pond, the emergence of social media has also played a part in the changing political landscape. The Scottish Referendum in 2014 was the first time that social media analysis and engagement played a key role in re-engaging voters and gave a clear indication of the outcome. There were over 10 million interactions on Facebook over the course of a month during the event and most politicians had some kind of social media strategy in place. Because of this, there was a record-breaking 84.5% turnout with 16 and 17 year olds allowed to vote for the first time.

In the past, it was politicians who drove the conversation and the public listened but it is now the voters who are driving the conversations, shaping the way politicians create their campaign strategies, deal with political debates and engage with people online. This massive change is a minefield of reputational risk for politicians, with many of them being the target of trolling and negative activity.

It cannot be denied that the increase in people sharing their political opinions online is providing valuable data which can be used to help political parties shape their planning and campaign development. By working with social media experts, they can track activity, monitor general sentiment, keep an eye on the successes and failings of their own and their rivals’ communications and develop key messages. All of this means that they have more access to crucial audience insights than they have ever had before.

For more information on the social media analysis and evaluation services that Cloud Media Insight provides, please get in touch