Washington : DC : USA | May 31, 2012 at 8:48 PM PDT
Could social media provide a window of opportunity to attract independents for the Libertarian contender,?
When I went to research social media and politics, I was a little surprised by the present state in the battle for social media dominance in the political realm. After initially dropping the ball, the Republicans have put money into building profiles and supporter outreach, and outside of the presidential race, they have the edge in social media user engagement.
Facebook is on track to have 141 million U.S. users by the end of the year, of which a fair segment is under 18. Voter turnout in 2008 was over 122 million, just over 55% of the voting age population (total number of registered voters unavailable).
An interesting comment posted by Micah L. Sifry, co-founder and editor of the Personal Democracy Forum, from the blog, techPresident:
"Based on conversations I've had with a range of Republican and Democratic online political strategists over the past few weeks, the conventional wisdom of the moment is wrong. Facebook and other third-party social network platforms aren't the central battlefield. It's data and targeting and figuring out how to use online strategies to enable motivated volunteers to identify, persuade and get out the vote."
I would say that Sifry's analogy is a bit off, in that data is part of the weapons/tactical arena and that Facebook is where the battle for Independents will be fought. The strategic use of data could be particularly useful for providing supporters of a third-party candidate with content to use in targeting friends on Facebook who may be indifferent to politics or disgruntled with the two-party system.
An insightful comment by Haydn Shaughnessy, from his post on Forbes: Will The US Election Be Won on Facebook?
"Might we see the first social media election turn on who connects with the most micro-audiences rather than who can make the most sustained noise?"
The major potential of social media in politics and society is raising awareness of issues and candidates initially neglected by the mainstream media. Depending on how wide and diverse a persons friends and interests are on Facebook (along with how much time they spend there), they may be exposed to an onslaught of information. So, how much of an impact does seeing politically oriented content in their newsfeed, have on persons who are mildly to moderately politically engaged? One infographic claims that social media will be the deciding factor for persons who are flip-flopping on who to vote for on Election Day.
A post by Don Power on Sprout Social provides insight on social media and political engagement:
"In May 2011, SocialVibe published a profoundly important statistic: '94 percent of social media users of voting age engaged by a political message watched the entire message, and 39 percent of those people went on to share it with an average of 130 friends online.' Social networks like Twitter and Facebook not only have amazing reach — members are also heavily engaged by political messages. What’s more, they share these political messages, often with their own opinions and curation, with a large number of friends and followers."
If posts about Gary Johnson start to go even mildly viral, and he gets in the nationally televised debates in the fall, there is the possibility social media exposure will snowball, which starts to attract the undecided and independents. If he inherits the Ron Paul Legion, he will continue rising in the polls and social media exposure will further escalate and if he starts looking like he has a serious shot, he will win over more of the undecided who will be influenced by social media.
Candidate wise, I don't see Twitter as being a major factor for Obama and Romney; however, Johnson could get a boost from Twitter exposure. I perceive Twitter as having its biggest impact in the area of raising awareness of issues and events/actions versus promoting candidates. Another infographic from a couple months ago on the social media battle for the presidency, actually included Johnson.
Give the People: True Freedom to Share!
There is an issue with Facebook when it comes to persons I call Social Media Activists, and I wrote on the subject in a guest post on AllFacebook. There is also the issue of persons who mark posts/comments by persons of opposing views as spam or for being offensive, which leads to posting privileges being suspended or in some cases accounts suspended/closed. Jermey Ryan posted an account of this practice.
I recently wrote a letter to Facebook targeted to "Policy Management" and used the two commentaries to make a plea that they should consider changing their policies in order to free-up the sharing of content by letting persons post on certain pages as much as they want, and let page administrators police their pages.
If Facebook can take the leash off of those who are politically engaged, it would help to liberate the flow of political discourse and dissemination of relevant content. Social Media Activists could play a role in leveling the playing field for the most credible third-party candidate, Libertarian, Gary Johnson.
Supporter generated/modified content could be what helps Johnson break through. Will there be a Johnson Girl? Will more celebrities such assupport Johnson? Social media truly has the power to turn the tide for a third-party candidate to gain traction towards being considered a viable contender. It is a matter of time before the you hear or see these words: It is now a three-way race for the White House.
"Spin is being created on social media faster than it can be created by spin doctors."
Andrew Rasiej, a co-founder of techPresident
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PaulHorton is based in Detroit, Michigan, United States of America, and is an Anchor for Allvoices.