Real Life Lessons: Social Media and the 2016 Presidential Election


Social media has proven itself to be a powerful tool for generating brand awareness and sharing content by individuals, organizations, and even politicians.

Social media has become a powerful mechanism for political campaigns to strategize their communication plans, hit back at their opponents, and to quickly create viral content that hundreds of thousands if not millions of followers disseminate to their peers. It carries tremendous weight on candidates from both parties to influence supporters and shape perceptions on different topics affecting the world at large. With the long cycle of Presidential politics, many people turn to the Internet to get information, which is why the 2016 presidential election is dominating social media outpacing many traditional news outlets. In fact, many traditional news outlets base some of their reporting on particular tweets or campaign videos released only via a candidate’s website or social media platforms.

Social Media Beats Traditional Advertising

In the primaries and the general election, we saw insurgent campaigns such as Senator Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump utilize social media to spread their message and to raise funds. With this more social media based campaign, Twitter along with Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat began to eclipse television advertising in 2016.

In an article on the TechRepublic, Gretchen Littlefield, President of Infogroup Media Solutions noted that “Candidates have leveraged social platforms, especially Twitter, to not only broadcast messages but to build excitement around their respective campaigns.”

Littlefield continued “Voters, donors, and U.S. citizens in general are turning to social to make election decisions, and if candidates haven’t built up a strong or engaging enough social presence, they will miss out on the votes they need.”

The trenches of presidential campaigns provide all businesses with some valuable tactics for using social media, here a few key insights to improve your marketing and communications efforts:

1. Finding Demographic Targets on Social Media

Social insights from Facebook or Twitter can help a political campaign to target particular voters who have specific interests. Social data on everything from women’s issues, energy policy, or gun rights can be utilized to better target social posts to those individuals who are more inclined to read a campaigns messaging on a particular topic.

With 44%* of U.S. adults reporting that they learned about the 2016 Presidential campaign via social media, it is evident that effectively using this medium is imperative for candidates to get their message out to the public. More and more people are talking and engaging with others on social media platforms enticing others to follow in their footsteps. Topics are trending and the public is weighing on what is being said minutes after the information is shared. Politicians need the public’s vote and what better way to do it then getting involved where their audience is actively participating.

2. Unleash the Armchair Advocates

The rise of various social media platforms has created a following called the “Armchair Advocates.” These are the people who tend to post and share political opinions, stories, and videos to their friends and followers. Yes, more people are willing to listen to friends or family members when it comes to election choices and campaign rhetoric, but the “Armchair Advocates” allow people to utilize the World Wide Web to get a different perspective from those that may influence them on a daily basis.

In a recent Forbes article, Laura Olin, the Social Media Director for Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign is quoted. Olin says, ““The most valuable effort a campaign can have is people who are willing to evangelize on behalf of the campaign and spread its messages in a way that feels authentic.” Focusing on impressions is a good metric to determine if the various social messages are resonating or not with potential voters.

3. Target Millennials

With approximately 73%* of Americans on social media in some form, social media has become one of the more prominent methods for Presidential candidates to get their messages out to the general public. Of this 73%*, virtually all 18-34 year olds use social media in some format. The Obama 2008 and 2012 campaign targeted millennials via social as did the Bernie Sanders campaign in 2016.

As pointed out by Eric Laurence, Facebook’s head of U.S. Industry for Politics and Government citing the benefits of their video advertising. Laurence said, “[the] great[est] way to reach and mobilize supporters and voters that candidates need to win election [are] those voters [who] are on Facebook.”

Facebook has approximately 200 million U.S. citizens as members. If you want to speak to voters, Facebook is a great forum since this 200 million is a large section of the American electorate. It is safe to say that many of these Facebook members will at some point in 2016 campaign cycle interact with and be influenced by political messaging.

4. Tailor Ads to Resonate with Key Audiences

Unique content for the right social media platform (i.e. video for FB, witty quotes for Twitter, Imagery for FB and IG) is the key to attracting voter attention, but properly engaging with the right audience on each platform is also important. Technology today is innovative enough to listen and understand what you search on the web from videos, to news articles and headlines and shape other advertisements to show up in browser. Whether it is an ad on the sidereal of your Facebook page or a pop up before logging into your email inbox, politicians are able to put exactly what they want you to see right in front of your eyes without you even knowing it.

Social media is about sharing, but it is also about engaging and when you see messages that you can relate to, you start talking. And once you start talking you get other people involved. In politics and the presidential election, this could be a huge benefit. For voters who have made a strong stance, it will only amplify their voice be heard even more.

Learn how to prevent social media crises from spiraling out of control in our best practices guide, How to Build a World-Class Crisis Communications Playbook – click here to download your copy. Also, read our blog post on 4 Tips to Prepare for Criticism and Crises on Social Media.

Allison Gosman is a Marketing Associate supporting Nasdaq Corporate Solutions. She recently graduated from The George Washington University receiving her B.B.A in Marketing. Allison started in Nasdaq’s Global Internship Program and then as a consultant through April 2016. She will be bringing her expertise in social media marketing and event planning to partner with the entire Corporate Solutions team in the development and execution of our social and event marketing initiatives.
This communication and the content found by following any link herein are being provided to you by Corporate Solutions, a business of Nasdaq, Inc. and certain of its subsidiaries (collectively, “Nasdaq”), for informational purposes only. Nasdaq makes no representation or warranty with respect to this communication or such content and expressly disclaims any implied warranty under law.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.


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