Social Media and politics have a short but quickly growing history. As the news covergage for Republican presidential candidates ramps up to its already feverish pitch, I took a moment to think about how social media played into the 2008 election, and how it has grown.
1. Polls: When a politician is speaking or a debate is going on, Twitter has increasingly been one of the best ways to take a quick and easy gauge of the reaction of the general public. On top of that, if you want to get a quick take on general reaction to an issue, Twitter of Facebook both offer free and wide-reaching ways to do that.
2. Commentary: News outlets routinely report on what this or that politician said on their Twitter or Facebook account. The best example of this? Sarah Palin, who has successfully transitioned her Alaskan governorship and VP run at the White House in 2008 into a political voice on Facebook.
3. Announcements: Mitt Romney announced his exploratory committee with a YouTube video, and announced his intent to announce candidacy for president over Twitter. Look for those two and Facebook to take a lead role in announcing things to voters and the press in the coming 2012 election race.
4. Scandal: Anthony Weiner’s growing Twitter follower account could have been an example in and of itself of the growing political influence of social media, but the recent scandal is an example of just how big the waves of social media can be if it has a tinge of scandal. Weiner is under scrutiny for possibly tweeting a picture of is, well, weiner, to a college-age girl in Washington. At this point, it’s not clear if it was his mistake or a hacker, but what is clear is that it’s taking a political toll on his place in the House of Representatives, and it’s part of the discussion around his potential New York City run for governor.
5. Being In Touch: Remember how current President Obama won the election in part because he was connected to younger voters over social media? He was- it was impressive to see him ahead of the curve. With over 8 million followers, his numerical popularity has not wanted. These days, though, the Obama Twitter account feels more like a press release speaking point feed than any kind of personal account. Check out @MittRomney – Aside from knowing he’s a politician, it’s got the tone and pacing of a social media guru.
Overall, social media will play a much bigger role in the 2012 election, only showing even more assuredly that its influence in politics is growing on both positive and negative issues.