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Social Media and the Presidential Debates

The 2016 presidential campaign has seen business tycoon, Donald Trump, and Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, come head to head in the most watched debate in campaign history.

Whilst this is, for a large part, due to the controversy surrounding the candidates, this year the campaigns have also had an even greater presence on social media, which has the world following.

In America, heavy campaign marketing is nothing new. Each year, the presidential teams take to the TV and Internet in one of the heaviest, and most important, marketing campaigns in the world. Millions of dollars are spent on the promotion of candidates and stamping out the opposition.

This year, with a huge rise in the popularity of social media, these channels have been even more prevalent in the campaign and social Media specialists have been flown in from around the globe to assist. Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook have all started to play a more important role in the campaigns, to help the candidates gain followers and win votes - especially with younger demographics and ‘millennials’.

So, do these social platforms have any real standing when choosing which candidate the American people vote for?

It is much too early to tell whether particular tweets or social campaigns are directly affecting voting. This is the first year that social media has been so heavily present in the campaigns and only time and consistent analytics will tell what social media had to do with the final outcome. However, these online platforms are certainly playing their part in the popularity battle and helping more people to understand what each candidate is offering.

Take Twitter, for example, where snapshot texts summarise candidate policies, ideas and even feelings. Instead of reading an article, you can go straight online and get an idea of what that candidate is saying, what others are saying about them and what their outlook is.

The Republican Candidate is well known for his presence on twitter. With a following of 12 million, his personal and professional comments are viewed by millions across the world daily. Trump recently used twitter as an outage for a campaign rant at 3.20am gaining him huge criticism but even greater publicity. The fact that these candidates have the means to publish whatever thought pops in to their heads at any hour of the day, makes the presidential race more open and much more interesting.

Twitter is also interactive meaning a simple @ can have you in conversation with anyone from around the world, and a # can have your tweet seen by millions. Campaign executives and candidates can monitor comments and tweets to see what people are reacting to and how they are reacting. Whilst this is not a true indicator of popularity or votes, it does provide an idea of when they should be saying what, what causes the greatest response and understand how better to engage their audience.

Hillary Clinton has also made sure that she is in with the younger generations, taking to platforms such as Instagram and snapchat. Video is extremely important here; quick bursts of speech can be caught and published to millions of followers in a second, which helps to engage more people in the presidential conversation. But these photo-based platforms are also a great way for politicians to present their personalities and relate to their audience. Throughout history, voters have put great weight on the type of person they want in power, not just the policies they offer. These social channels are not only used to show policies but also to show what type of person they could have as President. It is used to convey their personality – one of the most important points for voters. This is even more important with the younger demographic due to the importance that they put on the celebrity culture. It also helps them better communicate with young voters on a personal level.

In this particular election, the amount of undecided voters makes social media extremely relevant, especially with the younger generations and it will be extremely interesting to see statistics and facts following the outcome, as to how social media affected it.

Most importantly, Social Media makes politics much more inclusive and provides a neutral platform through which users can gain better insight in to campaigns, (despite them being professionally manufactured) and gain an idea of what their Presidential candidates are offering.

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