The readings this week discuss the role that social media plays in political campaigns. Slotnick analyzes the strategies that the 2008 republican and democratic candidates use through social media and the extent that social media, particularly Facebook, has on the ability to change the rules of the political campaign. Gueorguieva on the other hand provides an analysis of the benefits and challenges of youtube and myspace on election campaigns. In this blog I will argue that I find Slotnick to do a great job in evaluating the extent the social media has on campaigns – one that follows a middle road approach. However, I would also like to challenge Gueorguieva’s choice of using Myspace as a platform for effective political campaigning, and I will use Posek’s argument of social capital to support this argument.
I agree with Slotnick in that Facebook has proved a catalyst for disseminating information, generating a virtual following, and motivating real action and loyalty. However, other more traditional mediums are still necessary to carry a political communication, such as television, which allows for more of a promised income than online campaign does. As such, social media is extremely helpful/effective for campaigns, yet it isnt sufficient alone. In addition, the way in which the campaign staff uses the social media is also very important in determining its effectiveness.
Slotnick describes the way in which Obama used the internet in comparison to his opponents. He had the most amount of friends by about 4 times the amount of his biggest competitor, Clinton. And unlike Mitt Romney, he did not limit himself to groups that already support him. He also did not censor any messages on his profile. Obama personalized his facebook page by stating his favorite books etc., without making many long lists and paragraphs (such as Romney did). Obama understood the Facebook’s aspect of instant gratification and quick information. Most importantly, Obama used facebook to feature links to two event organization sites, Party Builder and Eventful, “extending beyond the virtual space and inviting potential supporters to rally together in the real world to mobilize their support and their money”. Obama was able to use the social media effectively, and as such, it played a large role in his campaign success.
Gueorguieva discusses myspace and youtube as great for providing messages for free or at a low cost, and I find this is true. However, I do not find the extent that political campaign involvement on Myspace to be as effective as Gueorguiva claims it to be. He discusses the user demographic of myspace as 51.6 percent adult. I argue, however, that Gueorguiva leaves one thing out: just because a large majority of people using Myspace are of voting age, it does not mean that they will vote or become involved in politics. Posek’s study found that people on myspace are found to have a lower social capital than those on facebook. As such, those who use myspace are much more politically uninformed and uninvolved. There is no news feed function on myspace, and therefore a large self-selection aspect, which Gueorguieva mentions. People who join myspace political networks have already been motivated to do so. With this challenge, along with the fact that those who use myspace have lower social capital than other social media, political campaigning strategy on Myspace seems less important.
Do you agree with this argument?