Political campaigns turn to social media

Facebook, Twitter increasingly used for political advertisements
Political campaigns turn to social media

Political advertisements aren’t just on your television screen anymore – campaigns are increasingly trying to sway voters with social media, as well.

With Election Day just weeks away, political ads are filling the airwaves, and they’re also popping up on your computer.

“People live on social media now, and so one way candidates can reach out to voters is to hit them where they live,” says Mike Wagner, a journalism professor at University of Wisconsin-Madison. “Candidates are spending more time trying to go viral – they’re spending more time trying to get people to share stuff on Facebook or retweet a candidate’s messages on Twitter.”

As the number of people online steadily rises from election to election, candidates are taking advantage of the conversations they can create there. Those are interactions that wouldn’t be possible through the TV screen.

“One of the great benefits of social media is that it’s interactive,” Wagner says. “It’s not just someone on television saying, ‘Here’s why you should vote for me and why the other candidate is terrible.’ It’s an opportunity for voters to offer messages back.”

While social media may a great way to engage with voters, it has its disadvantages. Wagner says people actually tend to not pay very much attention to social media ads, making it difficult to know just how effective those strategies are for political campaigns.

“The election is so close that many things could affect the results, which makes it really hard for candidates to know if social media is doing it,” Wagner says.

Still, with 87 percent of Americans plugged into their computers, politicians are listening more to that medium – but don’t expect to see a decline in those TV ads just yet. Spending on them is still skyrocketing, according to Wagner.

“Candidates are working hard to use the web, but they haven’t abandoned televisions by any stretch of the imagination,” Wagner said.