Official, professional and personal use of social media
Social Media For Political Communication
Social Media For Political Communication
Are you on Facebook or Twitter? How frequently do you share, follow, like, or posts updates? To most people, the most common answers to these questions are yes. The truth is that social media (SM) has become so much important lately than individuals lives revolve around it. Most individuals use SM to connect with their friends, communicate, and get the latest news about events happening around them and even to transact business. Some of the SM sites with most subscribers include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Snapchat. Each one of them has their unique features, but their overall function is to connect people together.
Purpose and Goal for Social Media
This paper will look at personal, professional, and official use of social media for politicians. Politicians use SM and other communication platforms to engage the public and potential voters. For example, U.S. Presidential Donald Trump relied heavily on Twitter to reach voters in the 2016 presidential race (Balsley, 2016, p. 2). Trump used Twitter to punch holes to his rivals, leaving him as the better choice. Social media provides a chance for people to connect online, share views, and drive change. Similarly, many politicians before Trump employed SM to appeal to the young voters and mobilize them to support them during elections. Deželan and Vobič (2016, p. 212) explain that SN is now immensely popular, and thus an attractive choice for politicians who want to reach a large number of voters instantly. They add that many of the politicians have more subscribers than a medium-sized newspaper. It gives them unrestricted access to the public that enables them to circumvent the traditional media and reach the potential voters through sharing strategic posts.
Politicians can use social media for agenda setting. Agenda setting simply means shaping what the particular person thinks of a particular issue with the aim of influencing his or her opinion (Guo and McCombs, 2015). For example, a presidential aspirant can set the agenda for the things he will do when elected. The advantage of social media is that the public gets the message straight from the politicians. Particularly, this reduces cases of wrong interpretation by media houses before releasing it to the public. Mahoney and Tang (2016, p. 317) say that in the past, the media have often relied on wrong information to the public. Moreover, SN allows them to set their own agenda’s and not depend on radios, TVs, and newspapers to do it for them.
Social media can aid politicians to raise awareness of their campaigns and establish a platform for dialogue. Vowe and Henn (2016, p. 28) say that It can be used to encourage civil participation and measure the popularity of a candidate based on the comments from the public. Also, it could be used to predict the results of the election through gauging the number of mentions and engagements of a particular aspirant or party on social media. What’s more, most of the online platforms allow polls to be conducted, which can be used as a basis for predicting the winner of the political race.
Once they assume office, political office holders can use their official SM accounts to engage the public. These social media sites can be used to tell what their representatives are doing to better their lives. For example, a politician can detail some of the achievements of his or her office over a certain period and provide evidence in the form of pictures, figures, or any other statistics. These sites can also be used to address the concerns of the electorates either in private through the message option or publicly through the comments sections. Jericho (2015) advice that public figures should always use SM professionally since personal updates may be taken out of context.
For political engagements, the best online platform that is recommended for politicians is Facebook and Twitter. First, the two sites have been used by politicians before and proved useful. For example, both immediate former U.S. President Barrack Obama and the current one Donald Trump relied on Facebook and Twitter to secure their wins. A 2014 report by Pew Research Center showed that most people rely on Facebook and Twitter to learn about the government and politics (Gottfried 2014). Moreover, the two account for the largest number of social media users. The research found out that most of the Facebook users could be using it for an array of social and informational activities while those of Twitter for political purposes. Balsley (2016, p. 3) acknowledges that Twitter has been established as a possible platform for political communication. It was estimated that 89.9% of all social media in the UK had Facebook accounts by 2016 (Emarketer.com 2017). The number is expected to rise to 52% of the UK population by 2020.
There are many problems that a politician may encounter when using SM for communication purposes. Firstly, there is a risk that unacceptable content may be posted in the comment section or on their timelines. This may include boarder vulgar language, videos, or pictures that may injure the reputation of the subjects. However, the persons in charge of the social media platforms can come up with the following measures to reduce or prevent the damage (Poore 2015). The first step is to ensure that no person can post on their timelines without their approval. The most appropriate thing to do is bar other second parties from posting on their timelines. The second step is to ban members from the site who contravene the rules set. This may include people who have no respect for others or promote political intolerance, racism, and religious extremists among others. The step is to inform the members of their social media groups to report any offensive or potentially damaging material that appears on the site. The last step is to remove the offensive material posted on the site.
There is also the risk that the politician sites could be hacked. Specifically, during election time SN accounts belonging to politicians may be hacked and appropriate content posted on them. In any event that their SN accounts are hacked, politicians are advised to inform the public immediately of the happening and reassure them that everything is being done to recover the accounts. After, taking back the control of the accounts, they are required to remove any harmful content that may have been posted by the hackers. Bahadur et al. (2012) advice companies using SN to have a strategy to deal with risks that could injure their brands. The same should apply to politicians.
Kietzmann et al. (2011) through a honeycomb model detail how social media can be used for both personal and professional purposes. The model allows for a systematic view of social media and presents suitable platforms based on the objectives of a communication campaign. Based on this model, a politician should have the following structures present in their professional social engagement on Twitter and Facebook
Presence: They should work on increasing the reach of their content to the targeted audience. Particularly, this is possible through creating interesting posts that will engage most people who will turn share and make them go viral. Another way to boost their reach is through sponsoring them. Sponsored posts have a wider scope compared to those that are not since they appear on the timelines of the selected audience.
Sharing: This aspect is linked to the exchange, distribution, and reception of meaningful content by participants (Kietzmann et al., 2011). It may lead users to engage in conversations and establish relationships. Politicians should be sharing videos of events, upcoming events, meet the people tours, rallies, press releases, and press conferences.
Groups: Politicians should strive to create communities of users with common interests. They could use the online platforms to build groups of people that support them or their activities. For example, if they are known for their initiatives to conserve the environment, they could create a Facebook group of people who value the same. Howard (2010)
Reputation: this is related to the trust and appreciation of users that is usually reflected in their comments. A politician can tell his or her status levels gauging from their feedback. Brogan and Smith (2013, p. 24) note that whatever one posts is beyond his or her control once they send the publish button and may come to haunt them several years later. Therefore, it is advisable that they strive for the highest level of reputation among the users using the sites.
The overall purpose of social media is to connect people. It has become more popular among politicians who want to connect with the public and rally them to vote for them. Some of the popular SN platforms are Facebook and Twitter. Politicians such as Barrack Obama and Donald Trump have used before the two sites as campaign platforms. When coming up with social media strategies, it is advisable that politicians identify their uses, challenges, and ways to achieve their objectives. Some of the common challenges include control of the content being posted on the sites and threats from hackers.
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