The Game Changer: Social Media and the 2016 Presidential Election

The Game Changer: Social Media and the 2016 Presidential Election


by Dr. R. Kay Green

And the clock is ticking…

Only one year remains until a new president is elected.

Presidential candidates from the Democratic and Republican parties are naturally pushing hard to win voters to their campaigns. Political ad spending is expected to reach an astounding $11.4 billion, 20 percent more than the amount spent in 2012. Spending on social media is estimated to account for more than half of the $1 billion budget for digital media.


Embracing Social Media

President Obama was the first president to successfully leverage social media before it became as ubiquitous as it is today. His AMA (Ask Me Anything) on Reddit, the popular networking site, quickly became one of the most popular threads of all time. Part of the campaign strategy was to reach minority groups and young voters which proved to be highly effective in the 2008 and 2012 elections.

Given the success of these campaigns, it’s hardly surprising to see most of the presidential candidates active on Facebook and Twitter. Other candidates including Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush even have Instagram and Snapchat to reach the growing number of users who prefer these platforms. Both are actually the first candidates to use Snapchat to announce their bid for the presidential nomination.


Targeting Millennials

The message here? Social media will undoubtedly play a major role in the upcoming election.

The ability to reach the millennial demographic is an important component to campaign efforts. And the reason why is simply that young adults are shifting more of their attention online to social networks. Candidates are naturally incorporating social media in their campaigns to stand out to millennials.

The importance of social media in elections has been studied extensively. One study published in 2012 found that Facebook feeds have a significant impact on voting patterns. The findings indicate that certain messages increased turnout directly and indirectly by a total of 340,000 votes. Close ties were also found to be far more influential than weaker ties.

According to research from Ipsos Mori, social media also has the potential to have more of an impact for 18 to 24-year-olds. More than a third (34%) of this group indicated that reading something on social media would influence their vote, second only to televised debates. This is yet another reason why the presidential candidates are increasing their ad spending budgets on social networks.

Another study found that 41% of young people between the ages of 15 and 25 had participated in some kind of political discussion or activity online. These included sharing a video from a presidential candidate or tweeting about world events. These same individuals were much more likely to vote than those who weren’t as engaged.

As the election nears, spending on social media will doubtless increase to encourage more people to vote and the presidential candidates will be more active to reach their target demographic. It can also be said with certainty that the candidates will continue to leverage social networks to generate support and even raise funds. As the presidential election draws near, it is evident that social media has become the game changer.  Using the influence of social media has and will continue to improve each presidential candidate’s chances of winning the election.





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