Since its inception, social media has been a huge part of spreading information for a variety of mediums and reasons. Starting with Barack Obama’s presidential campaign in 2008, social media has been a huge influence on American politics. In this article, we analyze the history and reasons behind using social media in political campaigns and provide tips for candidates looking to take advantage.
It didn’t take long for social media to have a huge impact on the outcome of a major political campaign in America. With Facebook having been founded in 2004 and Twitter in 2006, the first major presidential election with both platforms in use happened in 2008. Barack Obama went from a little-known, and very fresh, junior senator in early 2007 to winning the presidential election in November of 2008.
Social media had a huge impact on that election as Obama was able to spread his message far and wide. He even announced his bid for the presidency in an online video, sharing his beliefs and vision for America. For the first time, a candidate had proven that the use of digital media could be instrumental in political races.
The Obama campaign used social media to raise money for their campaign and to spread their message of “hope” and “change” across America without having to spend large quantities of money on tv ads in every major market. One of the most powerful uses of social media, however, was how the campaign was able to drive signups for volunteers nationwide. Many consider the campaign’s use of social media as one of the driving forces behind the victory.
Since that campaign, politicians far and wide have used social media to fundraise and connect with potential voters. Now it’s a necessity to use as part of any campaign strategy. Any campaign not taking advantage of social media today would be a severe disadvantage as an affordable and effective means to find money, volunteers, and votes.
As highlighted above, social media is very important and has been for some time in American politics. Here are some of the most important reasons that social media is able to have such a large impact on politics today.
As social media has grown and the internet has become a necessity over just a luxury, everyone now seems to have a phone in their pocket (or hand) at all times. This has led to social media becoming one of the most popular places to digest the news and learn about current events. Popular platforms for this include Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, and TikTok.
Getting news from social media has started to become so popular that adults under the age of 30 have as much trust in news from social media as they do in news from traditional outlets. While it’s easier to spread misinformation on social media, it’s less controlled than traditional sources pushing their own agendas. That makes it more inviting to younger audiences and that trend doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.
Social media makes it easy to distribute information and connect with an audience. If someone has a big announcement then it is much easier to get the information out via Twitter, for example, than it is through traditional news media. A message can be delivered to your followers within seconds, making it easier than ever to pique the interest of a particular target group or to respond to a negative attack on your campaign.
As Obama proved in 2008, social media is a great tool that can be used for fundraising for political campaigns. It’s a lot easier than going door-to-door knocking and sharing the same message over and over again. For high-profile campaigns, you won’t be able to earn the same amount of money through social media as you may with wealthy donors, but it’s still very effective.
You can actively pursue fundraising via social media or you can provide organic places for followers to donate by leaving links in your profiles or within the content that you’re creating. This gives you an opportunity that no other fundraising opportunity does: the ability to raise money without actively doing anything at the moment.
As previously mentioned, President Obama used social media to build a great following. As many have tried to duplicate that success since then, here are some of the most recent uses of social media to drive traction and success in national campaigns.
Social media was very popular for candidates during the 2022 midterm elections, especially in the House. John Fetterman was running a tight and expensive campaign against Dr. Mehmet Oz in the state of Pennsylvania. Fetterman used a whole digital strategy in his campaign to gain more supporters and voters.
He hired a 26-year-old social media specialist who helped with messaging on digital platforms. Because of the robust digital team that they built for the campaign, they were able to quickly test a lot of different methods for getting their messaging out. Ultimately, the strategy worked and helped Fetterman to win the election, somewhat unexpectedly.
Former President Donald Trump is notorious for using social media, especially for his lengthy Twitter rants about a variety of topics and people. He used social media to help him gain momentum to win the 2016 election and he saw it as a key part of the 2020 election as well.
In fact, from 2017 to 2020 he increased the number of tweets he was sending out from 164 per month to 986. His tweets often made people believe that they were just reactions but they typically had very common themes across important campaign issues like COVID-19, Russia, and immigration.
Representative Katie Porter was the first Democrat to be elected to represent the 45th district of the state of California. She appealed to younger viewers during her campaign by using her TikTok account to paint stories and pictures through data. It became extremely easy to digest and was able to accumulate more than 390,000 followers with nearly 4 million likes.
Miami University sophomore Sam Lawrence ran for a seat in the House of Representatives in his home state of Ohio in 2022. He was able to use social media to help him win the Democratic primary and make it to the general election but eventually fell to the incumbent republican candidate, Sara Carruthers.
However, his strategy helped him cut Carruthers's 93% of vote in 2020 to around 63% of the vote in 2022. His TikTok account, again, helped him to cut deeply into those votes and make it an interesting race.
Now that you understand how social media can have a huge impact on political campaigns, you may be wondering how you can take advantage or how it can benefit you. We’ve put together some of the best tips that will help you gain some traction on social media or to help you take advantage of the audience you’ve already built so that you can take office.
One of the best opportunities of social media is how instantaneous you can publish content or talk to voters. Many platforms have a “live” feature that enables you to talk directly to your followers in the moment. You can post a live video, host a Q&A, or just respond to something really timely or important. Going live can make you feel more relatable and real to potential voters.
Some candidates don’t want to create content for a specific platform because of their own bias toward that platform. For example, many older candidates might not think it’s worth the time or energy to create videos for TikTok, even though younger voters are starting to rely heavily on the platform for their news content. Just because you don’t use the social media platform doesn’t mean it can’t be a successful one for you to use to reach your voters.
Fundraising is one of the best uses for social media because of the number of people you can reach. To be successful, however, you need to make sure that you create an easy and accessible way for people to donate to your campaign. This means putting a link in your social profiles directly to where supporters can donate and even making it an active part of the comments or descriptions for every piece of content you create.
Trolls have become a very normal part of social media as it has never been easier to object to what someone says, thinks, or believes. As a political candidate, you need to be able to rise above contentious or bad interactions. The majority of politicians with a substantial following will eventually fall victim to a troll just wanting to drum up some trouble. You need to find a way to overcome these trolls without losing your cool or giving them any power over your campaign. Ignoring might be enough, but if not then you need to find another way.
One of the best uses for social media for politicians is the ability to connect with voters, or potential voters, and ask them meaningful questions. You can get data points on how your voters think or feel about a number of different issues that are important to your area. You can constantly present questions to your supporters as a way to get information that can help your campaign as well as just give you great content that people will want to digest.
If you’re going to be successful on social media then you need to be consistent and active. It is difficult to gain a lot of followers on any social media platform without consistently providing content for those supporters to read, listen to, or watch. Consistency is especially important if you’re just starting out or don’t have a high-profile campaign that you’re running.
Good Party is not a political party instead, we are a tech company that helps good independent and 3rd party candidates run for office. Our platform provides expert knowledge and campaign tools for candidates like you looking to gain an advantage against your competitors. We provide this information for free and it can help you run more effective social media campaigns. If you’re considering a run for office, or have already completed the paperwork, you can book time with our team to learn more.
Social media has been a key part of running a political campaign since Barack Obama won the presidency by using social media to spread his message, sign up volunteers, and run fundraising campaigns. Since then, many politicians have been following and iterating on the success of that campaign. If you’re running a political campaign today then it’s important to have a strong social media presence and strategy. Not having one can cause your campaign to lose out on supporters and needed attention.