The undeniable fact is social media has played a key role in U.S. Politics in recent years. The ease of digital messaging, where a campaign can blast the week’s message on every popular social media platform at once, is certainly important. But what is it about Twitter in particular that has captivated Republicans and Democrats alike? Leveling the playing field and ease of rapid communication are two key reasons.
Karpf presented an interesting case study in his piece, Measuring the Success of Digital Campaigns, where he looked at Newt Gingrich and the Republicans’ desire to have the most twitter followers by any means necessary. At the time, Gingrich was behind in the Republican Presidential Primary and needed a boost. A firm which helped Gingrich make up millions of Twitter followers seemed to his sinking campaign as a decent gamble. As we know though, false Twitter followers can’t favorite, retweet, or help spread a campaign’s message in any way- they are merely phony accounts designed to give Gingrich the illusion of success.
Ease of rapid communication is by far the most prominent reason why politicians are buying into Twitter, however. It’s very nature, 140 character maximum posts, appeals to the D.C. beltway class of journalists and politicos and these types retweet and favorite campaign messages. While the Barack Obama team has always been at the cutting edge thanks to groups like BlueStateDigital, Steinhauer states the Republicans have flocked to Twitter because in a matter of minutes, staffers can vet (discuss, debate the helpfulness of) a Tweet and then send it out with the ability to reply to anyone who responds. This is a powerful medium which has allowed a sort of echo chamber to arise in D.C. Politics. Steinhauer mentions a key point, however- Republicans were more interested in using the rapid communication as that echo chamber, while the Obama campaign was connecting with the American people. Hence arises a microcosm of the 2008 and 2012 campaigns as a whole, but we won’t get into that. Instead, the Twitter revolution begs the questions: Why do you use Twitter? If you don’t, why not? And what do you think about the effectiveness of political campaigns utilizing it?