by Sabine Hanger

It takes approximately three interactions with a potential voter to get them to vote for you. Since the existence of the internet accompanied by social media, there is no evident difference between realising this interaction in person or on a virtual basis. It is undeniable that Social Media is the most important target platform for campaigning in impending elections. Despite the fact that various platforms are a major influential instrument, they are also fast-changing ones; thus, benefiting from it can be more challenging than anyone could imagine. The key to understanding and, furthermore, properly utilise different social media platforms is knowing their purpose. Upon that, this article focuses on trying to take a 360 degrees view on how to engage on the diverse Social Medias.

Facebook – greatness courts failure

In 2018 Facebook has around 2.1 billion active users, 1.4 billion users log into their account on a daily basis, out of those 277 million people from Europe.

It is obvious that Facebook does influence our society, which makes it incredibly important for politicians and governments. It has never been that simple to get in touch and interact with candidates and elected officials than it is nowadays, and it has never been as easy for them to get immediate feedback and response to their demands.

The aforementioned influence has an astounding high potential for not only genuine response but also entails the risk of fake profiles and news, which found its acme in the U.S. Presidential election in 2016.

The scandal implemented a non-transparent company which created, without the knowledge of the actual Facebook-users, personal profiles based on the data stored in their accounts. Subsequently, they created a customised display for the election of Donald Trump and spread fake information about Hillary Clinton – all while Facebook was watching.

After the presidential election and the increasing pressure on Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, the company changed their algorithm.

After changing its algorithm in order to provide their users more often with posts from their friends rather than companies, Facebook published a statement saying: “One of the most important things we do is make sure our services aren’t just fun to use, but also good for people’s well-being and society overall.”

This already had an impact and will continue to have one in the future, simply because there are, on the one hand, tons of other platforms already based on the spirit Facebook was created in the beginning and is now trying to get back to. On the other hand, it keeps investors from putting money into the platform if their influence is being cut.

Another, even more, important challenge Facebook is facing, is to win the younger generation. Although the number of Facebook-users is increasing, the age of the users is also growing exponentially.

To interact especially with younger potential voters, politicians are forced to engage with other platforms, precisely, one that is owned by Facebook: Instagram.

Instagram – the rising king

A platform which might be even more important than Facebook one day, although the concept could not be easier.

Instagram started as a platform used only for photography and has developed into a medium where people get designated as “influencers” because of their tremendous impact on primarily the younger generation.

In fact, for politicians, Instagram is not as easy to use as Facebook, principally because the communication between users is not necessarily something Instagram aims at.

This is probably the reason why the younger generation is preferring it; it is directed on presenting your life in the best way possible and being updated on all of your friends’ lives without actually connecting with them.

Still, it would not be owned by Facebook if there was not a way to pay for the influence one is trying to set. Of course, one can pay for an advertisement and therefore increase their coverage.

Another element Instagram has accomplished better than Facebook is the use of Hashtags. With them one can, in a very simplified way, spread a specific message under only one word. The Hashtag #metoo is the perfect example of how to start a movement by using just one word. However, the famous hashtag was made popular by another platform: Twitter.

Twitter – an underestimated medium

Twitter is probably the only medium on which the influence on potential voters is not guaranteed by interacting with them directly. Although the popularity, it is different in every country, actually, the average users throughout Europe are mostly not “the average Jane or John”, but people involved in the public and journalists who write about them.

Compared to other platforms, Twitter is often quoted in articles and those 280 characters, which one is allowed to use per post, sometimes replace press releases. Especially since every journalist or interested person can easily confront politicians, for example, with their statements on specific topics.

It is self-explanatory how the influence works indirect and how important this medium therefore for politicians is.

As mentioned before, the Hashtag was made popular by Twitter, not knowing how the “#” in front of a single word could crash the climate on any topic. The best and at the same time worst example was the Hashtag used in the British campaign against remaining in the EU, #Brexit.

The main goal of the Hashtag is basically to gather various statements on a topic by just looking through the categorical sources set by a simple hashtag.

Twitter is known as a platform where every politician needs to be signed up, and as long as there is no other medium where journalists and people from the public eye are clustered in one bubble, Twitter will continue being incredibly important in elections.

Big players and upcoming platforms

Predicting on upcoming trends in the world of social media is very much like gambling.

The most favourite platforms of 2017 are WhatsApp, YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook and The last one was invented in the same year and is therefore without any comparative figures.

Especially Snapchat, Whatsapp and YouTube, three platforms not mentioned in the article, do have an enormous impact on the lives of younger people. The reason why they are not mentioned in the article is simply that they are not made for political discourse at all.

In the very moment, you are reading this article everything said on the topic could have changed, but there are a few general statements that can be mentioned and are seen as “golden rules” which every politically involved person should follow:

1. The same rule that is valid for billboards while campaigning goes for posts – you have three seconds to get potential voters attention – keep your message simple.

2. The saying for Las Vegas applies for Social Media in the exact opposite way: What is put on the internet, stays there, forever.

3. As sorrowful as it might be for some enthusiastic politician – virtual interaction is becoming more and more important. It is an easy calculation: You meet 10 people on one day in person, turn them into 100 by posting what you told those 10.

4. 90% of the time all those media are used on the phone. As much as every camera specialist might hate this but the key word is “portrait format” – always.

5. And last but not least: Never post something after 10 p.m. on a Saturday. Young people are always on their phones, but they also like to go out.

23 April 2018
This text was published in Bullseye issue 72