In light of the recent presidential campaign of 2016, the use of Twitter within politicians have never been more prolific than today. It is regarded as an essential tool in a campaigner’s toolkit as we can all see from the events that unfolded during the campaign.
Twitters original idea stems from “status”, being able to know exactly what a person is doing at all times and although most current platforms during the day such as Facebook allows you do similar text based updates ( Facebook Wall Posts and status bars ), Twitter was a more accepted platform because it did not co-exist with other key functions. In other words, Twitter streamlined the application so that consumers could only post text updates of up to 140 words. It was an accepted medium and one if implemented on Facebook would jeopardize the fluidity of the content it is portraying. What resulted from that is a real time feeling that users get from reading the tweet. You feel as though you are right there beside that person and this is quite a significant effect.
The use of social media platforms and social networking sites has never been more important in politics. As the use of these platforms are becoming more and more mainstream, people are ultimately resorting to these outlets for information that they would have ordinarily consume by other means such as broadcasted news and articles. Couple that with an added feature to almost target and segment any group available in numerous sectors, this platform has become the more effective form of digital advertising and communication. It comes to no surprise therefore that politicians are now using Twitter more and more in order to reach their audience. They are able to influence and to establish a much closer connection to them that broadcast based news could not. It would also seems as though it made them more human, unfiltered, transparent, risky and immediate. In fact, when looking at recent polling data, Donald Trump’s “Shoot-from-the-hip” twitter Diplomacy was more effective in gathering impressions than mass media in more ways than one. A recent poll suggested that only 25% of people use TV as a source of political news and 42% of television viewers does not bother watching campaign commercials (ref 1 ) .
Besides campaigning as a use of Twitter, ex-president Barrack Obama have also used this platform in several ways to reach his audience of 85 million followers. He has used this platform to promote his legislation, respond directly to the public in regards to the economy and employment and held numerous public forums, namely #AskObama. This campaign allows people to ask questions to Obama directly and he would respond to them in several tweets. There are also several photos that Obama himself personally posted on his Twitter account and these images are regarded are unfiltered.
Looking at Obama’s past few tweets we can already sense his personality and character in more ways than TV or articles could not. Twitter gave him a voice for his audience and engagements are becoming even more significant especially during his 2008 campaign. Most recently we can see that during the 2016 presidential campaign, after winning swing states the number of positive tweeting in support of the candidate increases and swing voters were also actively engaging with personal tweets. What happens after that is a snowball effect that ultimately creates a divide from traditional news outlets and social networks. In fact, in a recent Gallup poll, trust in mass media is also now at an all-time low while social media engagements are rising in politics ( ref 2) .
Similar to FDR’s fireside chats in 1933 to 1944, the informal use of Twitter has become a more accepted and trusted form of communication for public figures. The brevity and timeliness of those 140 characters are significant in generating news, conversation and debate. What ultimately comes from that haphazard way of tweeting is a more authentic form of communication. Political agendas are formed according to strategies based on this platform and to some degree, conversation that would have otherwise never been talked about are now surfaced through this medium.