Social Networking and Political Campaigns

Online social networking has become a key ingredient in social capital, especially when launching a political campaign to endorse either a political issue or even a political candidate. Facebook and Twitter have become, in the modern era, very influential in the quest for information dispersement, and political actors are aware of the profound impact that these social networking sites have. Pasek et al. (2009) found that SNS use was positively correlated with civic engagement, with Facebook being more strongly correlated to political knowledge than Myspace. They also found that, aside from SNS use, informational Internet use was also positively correlated to political knowledge. This means that the Internet and social networking play key roles in how audiences obtain information about a politically salient issue.

However, the problem with measuring success of a political campaign can become difficult. There are two different types of metrics describes by Karpf (2010): tactical metrics versus strategic metrics. Tactical metrics are easy to measure (number of Twitter followers, retweets, etc.) while strategic metrics, the more important of the two metrics because it measures success, can be is more difficult to measure. Karpf emphasizes that persuasion is key in mobilizing a campaign, and just because a person has a high tactical number of followers does not mean that people are being persuaded because they could already have been supporters.

And so, the question becomes, how can political actors with a specific goal ensure that their campaigns are successful on social networking sites? What methods of persuasion can they utilize and is it possible to truly persuade someone about something over a portal like Twitter? If it is a partisan concept, how can they persuade people of the opposite political affiliation without that direct, face-to-face contact?

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This entry was posted in Week 5, Winter 2013. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Social Networking and Political Campaigns

  1. Great post! I especially like that you point out that “just because a person has a high tactical number of followers does not mean that people are being persuaded.” Although I’m a big fan of Twitter, I do think there are roadblocks to using it as a way to persuade people or get them to “jump on-board” an activism campaign. Due to the fact that Twitter users have the ability to actively select who they do/ do not follow, it is hard to tell if your message is actually reaching anyone who might not have already been interested in the first place. Sure, it is beneficial to spread your message and success to the people who already believe in your mission, but it is another thing entirely to expect that this message is reaching those who wouldn’t actively seek it out. The one redeeming quality of Twitter, which I believe will be explored in future years, is the ability to turn your followers into active “spokespeople” (by getting them to actively interact and re-tweet you) who may have a more diverse following than the group in general.

    Thanks for getting me to think about both sides!

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