The True Effects of Social Media of Civic Engagement

In “Measuring the Success of Digital Campaigns”, Dave Karpf discusses online presence, specifically with relation to Twitter, the latest social media platform. He begins by discussing the different aspects of Twitter (tweets, retweets, followers, etc.) and moves quickly into how political and cause-driven accounts can gain popularity within the Twittersphere. In deliberating strategy, he distinguishes between tactical measurements of digital activism, which measure how many individuals have taken action related to your campaign, indicated by online signatures, blog visits, posts, tweets, etc. He compares this to strategic measurements which track the tactics that make a difference and actually contribute to a win or a loss. While he seems to have this system down to a science, the relative new-ness of the Twitter medium, as well as most online forums that have popularized recently, make it hard to accurately decipher exactly what is going on in the Blogosphere.

As was clear to see in the “Realizing the Social Internet” study conducted by Josh Pasek, it is very hard to make clear-cut definitive statements regarding the effectiveness of Internet use on social capital and political activism. Pasek’s thorough study of Facebook and Myspace users proved that social media users demonstrated substantially different patterns of civic engagement because of the vast other factors involved besides their use of social media. Using Facebook versus Myspace as well as a user’s particular goals when using the social media site have more of an influence on their resultant civic engagement than simply whether or not they are users of social media sites.

While now there is much more widespread use of Facebook, Twitter, and social media sites as a whole, I still presume it would be difficult to make widespread generalizations regarding the effectiveness of social media sites with relation to civic engagement and political activism. One way the entertainment industry has tried to capture measurements in the tactical/strategic realm of social media effectiveness is by creating hashtags that correspond to TV shows, movies, or programs that viewers are watching, so they can tweet that particular phrase and see who else/how many others are watching along with them. The media makers, then, can get a very general idea of who is tuning in and active on social media, and thus can attempt to target this demographic in various multimedia ways. While the platform for all of this is very new, by taking risks and pushing the envelope of social media, we can try to decipher what indeed is the best way to persuade social media users into civic participation. 

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This entry was posted in Winter 2012. Bookmark the permalink.

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