Raise your hand if you haven’t been able to go on social media for the past few months without seeing or hearing something about either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. Not a day has gone by when I haven’t come across videos of the two campaigning for the elections, tweets where they try to tear each other down, parodies about Trump’s fake hair and orange tan, clever anti-Trump tools that Hillary’s website keeps launching, witnessing the birth of the “nasty woman” economy or simply hundreds of versions of the Hillary Shimmy song.
Four years ago, social media politics was really boring but today, social media has evolved from an afterthought to a strategy for the candidates and entertainment for the supporters and people like me who have no personal stake whatsoever in this election.
Watching this crazy race online has made me realize a few things about social media:
Social Media Matters:
“There is no doubt that social media is a vital platform for national discourse during elections. Sometimes it leads that discourse, either by breaking news as it happens or by giving politicians and parties the platform to get their voices heard. Other times, it provides a companion to traditional media, such as during the television debates when viewers gave their reactions on Twitter as and when events unfolded” (NewStatesman, 2016)
Social Media Drives Conversations:
“No matter where you fall on the political spectrum, you probably haven’t seen anything quite like the 2016 election cycle. Technology has created an unprecedented level of transparency among the candidates – whether they want it to or not. Hillary Clinton’s emails and Donald Trump’s tweeting habits come to mind right away. Social media, in particular, is driving conversations, clarifying facts, and adding another layer of complexity to the process” (Boitnott, 2016)
Social Media Can Be A Killer
Trump has learned a lot from social media during the presidential race. He’s learned that it can be a real killer when you don’t know how to use it correctly. Although both candidates have had success in speaking to their supporters through social media, more than once Trump has put his foot in his mouth and damaged his own campaign due to what he posted on Twitter.
Authenticity is more obvious on social than maybe anywhere else
“Social is inherently personal, intimate, and usually only semi-scripted. Each network demands its own flavor of voice, tone, and formality (or lack thereof). Clinton’s well-known retort to Trump on Twitter, saying simply, “delete your account” is arguably the best response that is largely tied to its medium: that response wouldn’t make as much sense on Facebook, but it works perfectly for Twitter because of its brevity—and because it pokes back at the trolls in a way many of us have also had to do on Twitter” (Netzer, 2016). Being authentic has worked well for Trump, allowing him to gain maximum organic reach. He may have hired his longtime friend and former caddy to lead social media for his campaign, but there can be no doubt @realdonaldtrump is really Donald Trump.
Memes become the best form of entertainment:
According to Patel, (2016), “the more political candidates use social media, the more faux pas we’re likely to see from them, especially when the news media is hungry for hot political stories during the election season. While each candidate attempts to create viral photos and videos, sometimes they do so in unexpected ways, as the Internet is an uncontrollable beast”. Here is a look at a few that have kept me entertained over the past few months:
Followers Don’t Necessarily Equate to Votes
“Although Trump’s social media presence dominates Clinton’s, she received 16,847,084 votes in the Democratic primary compared to Trump’s 14,009,107.This shows that Trump knows how to rile up a crowd, but he’s still trailing Clinton in the ability to get voters into the booth to actually cast their votes” (Patel, 2016)
There is no doubt that social media’s influence in this presidential election is stronger than it has ever been. But will it enable voters to go out and cast their votes? Let’s wait and watch..