21st Century Politics

The 9th of November 2016 will forever mark the day that an egomaniacal, narcissistic xenophobe won with a sweeping victory to become the 45th president of the United States.

I think it is safe to say that the news has completely shocked the world, for we never thought after a dramatic and embarrassing 18 months of political campaigning that this day would actually come. The only good that has come out of this decision is the fact that the mudslinging campaign trail is finally over, and boy, did it not just drag on forever? But what interests me more and more each election is how much of a necessity digital and social media has become within candidates campaigns.

US-VOTE-TRUMPsource: Huffington Post

Burrell Associates have estimated that American politicians will be allocating over 9% of media budget towards digital and social media. Why? Well, politicians have always used their ability to connect with the public on a social and personal level as a campaigning tool, but with the rise of social media, it’s minimal effort and availability to the mass has made it a absolutely vital.

Technology is constantly integrating itself into our society. With two-thirds of the online population using social media, it’s clear how pervasive it has become, especially within a younger demographic. Which is why it’s no surprise to see a shift in how campaigns operate and politicians connect to voters.

All politicians know that if they can be a hit with the younger generation, then they will have a much easier ride to the top than if they didn’t – purely on the basis of that they are the generation least likely to vote. Obama paved the way for future political campaigners by becoming the first ‘social’ president. Whilst campaigning, he used social media in order to tap into the way young people naturally communicate, however, this isn’t to say it will gain politicians instant votes or likability. Barack Obama and his campaigning team may have specially curated every single bit of social media content in a positive light, but that isn’t to say that Donald Trump’s timelines are smelling like roses. So politicians must remember – it’s all about the content and the relationships! Because the likelihood is that it will be shared and retweeted by millions of like-minded voters (or trolls) so everything counts.

And it’s not just about us nobodies either. Clinton used her support from celebrities as a supplement to her campaign, with the likes of Katy Perry, Pharrell Williams and Kendall Jenner using the hashtag #ImWithHer on their social media accounts. No harm in capitalising on popular celebrities following, right?

Now, American political campaign trails have always had a reputation of costing an obscene amount of money. The commercials, the private jets, their paid appearance’s on the radio, the rallies across the country – it’s easy for these costs to all add up. But the perks of social media has meant that politicians now get advertising without the cost of advertising. Simply create a commercial, upload it to YouTube and share it on all social platforms and Bob’s your uncle! Not to mention, these commercials will feature on the news, newspapers, magazines, chat shows – you name it, it will reach anyone and everyone for no additional cost.

Talking of saving money, candidates are also able to use social media in order to raise large amounts of money in short periods of time. I know what you’re thinking, and no, you cannot start a GoFundMe campaign in order to fund your shoe addiction because believe me, I’ve tried. But politicians do actually take to Facebook and Twitter to get their supporters to donate money to help fund their campaign further.

So, whether you like it or not, it’s clear that politics on social media is here to stay. However, I for one am embracing this new approach to drawing a younger crowd. Politics is complicated, heavy and most of the time depressing, so why not lighten it up a bit and get more people interested in their future in an innovative way? Heck, if Donald Trump can become President, who knows what will happen the next election…. Kanye West?

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