The role of internet-based social media platforms in campaigns was unheard of two presidential election cycles ago. Using communications instruments like Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Google+ and Facebook is not only an ancillary tool for political campaigns, they have become essential.
There are clear indications that political consultants consider social media vital─a means to spread their message and effectively communicate. A review of the growth of social media, particularly the micro-blogging website Twitter, justifies their observations.
Look at our presidential candidates. President Obama has 18 million followers on Twitter and sends multiple 140-character messages daily to his millions of readers. Romney is no slouch either; he sends several Tweets a day to his nearly 900,000 readers.
Four years ago, using Twitter as a significant means of communication would have been absurd. In 2000 and 2004, Democratic and Republican presidential campaigns utilized expansive use of e-mail correspondence to inform their supporters about events and raise campaign funds. Sites like Facebook and Twitter, however, permit quick dissemination of news and updates.
The 2008 White House campaign of Barack Obama won praise for its widespread use of Facebook. Obama’s campaign was able to offer photos and event information quickly to their legions of primarily young supporters who inhabited that particular social network.
As Facebook and Twitter’s general appeal expanded to include older generations of potential users, politicians and their staffs took to the sites in massive numbers. Currently, Twitter has become the favorite for newsmakers to reach out to the public.
As public officials take to Twitter to communicate, what about the political reporters covering Presidential Campaign 2012? They too are all on Twitter. Every major correspondent from every news network files 140-character stories with live, as-it-happens reports. These reporters have quickly adapted to the changing communications landscape of how hard news is broken–and even these reporters now have thousands of followers.
In San Bernardino County, Fontana Mayor Acquanetta Warren, San Bernardino City Councilmember John Valdivia, and Grand Terrace City Council candidate Sylvia Robles all have a strong presence on Twitter as do 8th Congressional District candidates Paul Cook and Gregg Imus. Likewise, GOP Assemblymember Mike Morrell and his Democratic challenger Russ Warner each actively engage followers on Twitter.
Given its easy use and real-time tangible results, social media will not only be a major factor in this year’s election, but Twitter will serve as a driving force in many election for years to come.
Follow William Postmus on Twitter @billpostmus.