2020 and Facebook Lives: A Guide to Social Media During the Caucuses
In 2005, only 5% of Americans said they used social media. Now, seven out of every ten Americans are active on Facebook. Roughly half of those between 18 and 24 years use Twitter. As social media platforms draw in large numbers of potential voters, presidential campaigns must quickly adopt and adapt to new social media tools and fit them into their communications strategy. Whether you are an avid user of social media or just getting started, understanding the basics of social media, how candidate’s use social media, and how social media can inform your political decisions is important leading up to the Iowa caucuses in 2020.
First, social media is complicated. There are many different tools, and companies are constantly rolling out updates or new features, forcing campaigns to adapt quickly. A smart candidate uses social media with a deeper understanding of the users and purpose of each platform: Facebook reaches older audiences, Twitter creates voice and reaches voters on a more personal level, and Instagram encourages user interaction.
On their respective pages, candidates balance sharing their message, engaging with users, and motivating voters and volunteers. Twitter offers a great opportunity for candidates to engage out to potential voters by engaging with users’ content through liking or retweeting other tweets. Below, Democratic Candidate Marianne Williamson retweeted Twitter user Miranda Yaver’s post stating “Civilians do not need an AR-15” and added, “Well put.” This tweet was beneficial to her overall campaign because it restated her own opinion while engaging a potential voter and all of her followers.
Instagram is typically used to create opportunities for user interaction. Through regularly posted photos, it can give behind-the-scenes looks at campaigns and can humanize the candidates. In the post below from South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, his campaign gives both a literal behind-the-scenes glance at the candidate and taps into popular culture by emulating rap icon Eminem.
Beyond photos, Instagram is a great tool for campaigns because of Stories, the comments section, and the Explore page. Rolled out just before the presidential election in 2016, Stories are fully being utilized this election cycle. Beyond allowing users to follow along with a campaign that is filming its candidate, volunteers, etc., Stories also enable users to interact with curated content. Stories can feature links to a campaign website or can feature polls where users can vote or comment live. This live Instagram Story from Former Congressman Beto O’Rourke (D-TX) maximizes the purpose of Stories— giving potential voters authentic, original “inside access” to his campaign and an easily-accessible link for more information.
Facebook stands out from the others easily due to the number of active members: almost 70% of all U.S. adults are active on the social media platform. Facebook is primarily used for providing information to supporters because supporters can find a candidate’s position on various issues, contact information for the campaign, and upcoming event information.
How to Use Social Media to Follow Candidates
As the Iowa Caucus grows nearer, keeping up with candidates on multiple platforms can help make a voter’s decision because you can see a candidate’s interaction with various age and social groups.
If you’re stuck between candidates, follow them on Instagram, Twitter, add them on Snapchat, and check their Facebook page.
Don’t just keep up with one platform— it’s all or nothing. Campaigns tailor their messages based on their audience, and there aren’t very many 70-year-old potential voters on Instagram. If you’re older, try a platform designed for younger generations, like Snapchat. If you’re younger, trying Youtube or Facebook can bring a new perspective.
Candidates are trying to reach out to voters in unique, creative ways. Communications and marketing strategies are evolving constantly, and we, as voters, are fortunate to be in the center of that process.
At the very least, you’ll find a good meme.