Politicians embrace social media to reach mainstream audience

Since the previous presidential election in 2008, the political realm has widened from the campaign trail to include the information highway. While a candidate’s campaign commercial or website are nothing new, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter have become popular media for addressing the masses.

“I think it’s a positive change,” said Dr. Tim Collins, associate professor at UNA. “As people are more involved in social media, it gives them a chance to interact with their candidates.”

The addition of a social network presence has certainly become a common move. All 5 remaining GOP candidates have Twitter accounts as well as President Obama, who has the 8th highest amount of followers at close to 12 million, according to twitaholic.com.

The Internet approach clearly adds convenience to candidate research that would otherwise be missing. In the past, campaign information would have been seen or heard just through news sources or in TV spots between programs.

“It makes sense,” said Jacob Chapman, a sophomore at UNA. “I’m much more likely to see something online than on TV, especially when it’s on the front page of my most visited sites.”

The question remains, however, if this approach makes a persuasive impact. Some people feel that the social media is not being used to reach out personally but rather as a kind of online billboard.

“I follow some candidates on Twitter,” said Bryan Massey, a sophomore at UNA. “They’re obviously biased, and they only talk about their campaign stops.”

Although it might be unwise for a candidate not to have a place in the social network, it is not clear that anyone’s constituency is ultimately relying on Facebook or Twitter to keep up with the political arena.

“You have the people who actively consume political information online and those who just catch it with all of the other content,” Chapman said.

Social networking may prove its importance in time to come, but for now it remains a campaign trail faster than any tour bus.