This is my final exam when I studied for English Academic Preparation in IALF, Kuningan. Surprisingly, I wrote 1500 words for this essay. This is the first time I wrote longest sentence based on the academic journals.
Should Social Media Used for Political Campaigns?
The development of technology has changed patterns of interaction and communication among individuals. Many people use the internet to obtain information, discuss and share about some issues. In addition, most people are familiar with social media as media to interact or communicate with their friends, families, and colleagues’ today. Social media facilitates humans to distribute knowledge, experiences, ideas, and opinion among the users through electronic media such as Blogs, Facebook, Twitter and You Tube. (Stieglitz, Brockmann, & Dang-Xuan , 2012). Regarding the data in 2012, there are more than 900 million people who are members of the Facebook network and another social media is Twitter with more than 500 million people as users. (Forbes, 2012)
The development of social media has increased significantly in many countries. Regarding the political sector, social media influences patterns of political communication. According to Mcnair, cited in Riaz, political communication is the purpose of communication about politics. It means that politicians communicate with their voters with verbal and non-verbal communication, verbal communication is written argument and non-verbal communication means visual appearance, such as clothes, hairstyle and logo designs. (Riaz, 2010)
Today, many politicians or candidates use social media to obtain public support during campaigns and election times. It has enormous power because the internet has increased dramatically in young generations, especially for potential voters. They think social media has a real potential to disseminate messages quickly and across a wide area. Besides, they can reach the public easier than using traditional media, such as television, magazines, or newspapers.
On the other hand, there are issues about the weakness of social media. Some people argue that social media will be dangerous if political actors cannot utilize social media properly. This essay will consider arguments for the advantages and disadvantages using social media, covering in the characteristics of the message, the pattern of interaction and social and economic issues
THE CHARACTERISTICS OF THE MESSAGE
A political message has significant power to gain sympathy from potential voters during election campaigns. Some politicians believe that the effectiveness of the message is an indicator to measure their success in elections. Therefore, they choose major media which is known by the wider community, such as television, newspaper and radio to transfer their political messages. Nevertheless, the emergence of the internet has strengthened the traditional print and electronic media. As a result, political actors decide to use social media to strengthen the effect of their message, which are delivered thorough other media.
The characteristics of the message in traditional print or electronic media obviously differ with the message in social networks. There are some advantages of spreading information in online campaigns. The first advantage is the message can be disseminated by candidates quickly and across a wide area (Brown, 2012). Additionally, online posting is efficient, because it provides discretion for candidates when spreading political messages, posting achievements, making statements or giving a response and publishing press releases in the short time. It is really efficient when spreading information to the society (Marchant, 2000). According to Brown (2012), President Barack Obama’s in 2008, maximized social media to communicate his messages faster and encourage people to donate. Surprisingly, this method was successful and received sympathy and funds from American society. Obama created around fifteen social networks, such as Facebook, Youtube, MySpace and others, which facilitated him to deliver potential messages to his potential voters.
Figure 1 Social Signals 2008 Election in the United States
Source : David Anggoti, retrieved 12 September 2012, http://www.searchenginejournal.com7
Figure one illustrates how many citizens in the United States were members or followers of both candidates in social media. Obama had more Facebook supporters at 2.444.384 people than McCain at 627,459 people. In addition, Obama still was superior instead of McCain supporters in MySpace and Twitter. President Obama gained support from social media, such as Facebook, Twitter and You Tube. On the other hand, Senator McCain, who did not have social media as his strategy to gain financial support or spread information in order that he was not be able to achieve the same support as his rival. Finally, Obama won both the social media fight and election easily.
The usage of social media does not just give benefits for politicians or candidates, but voters can obtain proper knowledge and information about them properly. According to Marchant (2000) people can do research or look for information deeply about their favorite candidates. The most important factor is the candidate’s supporters can encourage their friends to vote and express their opinions related to their favorite candidates. Furthermore, voters can write messages, comments, publish and share information with their followers in Twitter (Kushin and Yamamoto in Smith, 2011). As a result, the political messages can spread quickly.
Furthermore, Wilson (2011) states voters have other advantages, they can access important data related to politicians or political parties, accept news, make political donations, give personal opinions in a short time. Therefore, easy access to get messages can raise political interest and activism.
However, there is a weakness of spreading messages through social media. According to Kucinich, cited in Smith (2011), Twitter as a social media just provides 140 characters and can distract political campaigns, when the candidates make mistakes in social media, it is so difficult to counter those mistakes because the incorrect messages travel faster and all people have already read those messages. Moreover, according to Pew report, 56% of respondents face difficulties to distinguish the correct information from on the internet.
In addition, information in the internet is enormous, so political users may also get overloaded information. As a result, they find it difficult to filter information and get valuable information related to the political actors when using a “search engine”. Furthermore, candidates who use online campaigns will increase incidents of candidate irritation, because political opponents can exploit social media to deliver negative campaigns. Consequently, it causes a threat of unfair strategies for political campaigns (Wilson, 2011).
THE PATTERN OF INTERACTION
The ease of interaction is another benefit when using social media for political campaigns. It is a belief that many candidates have websites, blogs or social media to communicate or interact with their supporters and get their response (Riaz, 2010). He also said the politician has benefits because they accept criticism, advice, and opinions from voters and will reply directly. Additionally, Brown (2012) said that when candidates have a personal account in Twitter, the political actors and people have a shorter gap, so both of them can interaction personally.
Two way communication has been implemented in social media, while in other media, such as television and newspapers, the candidates only communicate with their potential voters through one way communication and there is no interaction between them. Marchant (2000) argues that online postings are really efficient so the candidates can make a statement or response.
Another benefit is voters can take a part from the political process as well as they can get precise information directly from candidates. More favourable is they do not be present at public speeches to listen political messages as well as to get the same perceptions of the political choices from candidates in one area. Therefore, candidates can utilize short time campaigns properly to deliver information about meaningful messages. Then, giving opportunities to the voters involved in discussions about some issues at anytime and anyplace with social networks on the internet (Wilson, 2011). Most importantly, Chen, Kushin and Kitchener, cited in Stieglitz, Brockmann and Xuan LD (2012) state the young generation have inspiration about political issues after communicating by using social networks as the communication media.
On the other hand, It has been argued that social media, like Facebook is basically a safe forum for communication with followers, but the candidates still must be vigilant of their Facebook status or comment because unless candidates are filtering every comment while interacting with voters, something could be published that is not true or does not represent their political mission, so the candidates should pay close attention when they communicate with their public. (Pearson and O’Connel, cited in Smith 2011)
SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC ISSUES
The last advantage why social media is really common to deliver campaign messages because it is cheaper than other media. According to Hayness (2008) new media such as the internet has less expense, open to all people and it runs 24 hours for updates of all information. He also states that campaigns in the virtual world through social media are cheaper and more powerful than mobilization campaigns directly. In addition, candidates can make advertising less costly and also broadcast them on the internet continuously such as in blogs and You Tube. Those statements are strengthened by Wilson (2011), he argues social media has the ability to accelerate the news, spread reports to the potential voters in certain demographic areas, so it needs a low advertising cost.
Moreover, candidates find it possible to use this tool for fundraising. According to the New York Times, cited in Haynes (2008) during the first six months of 2007, three presidential candidates from the Democratic Party in the United States, Edwards and Obama raised more than 28 million dollars from online donations. According to Smith (2011) through social media like Facebook, Twitter and You Tube, political actors will continue to communicate with supporters and will obtain donations as a form of support for the candidates.
Moreover, traditional campaigns costs are expensive because the material should be printed. In contrast with online campaigns, politicians can effectively cut printing and delivery, so the cost will be zero. (Wilson, 2011).
Although it cannot be denied that true social media is cheap, but social media cannot reach all voters. Raiz (2010) argues that only the wealthy can access the internet. Besides that, in some developing countries there is a lack of technology and limited internet connection. Usage of social media cannot be implemented in some countries because of the regulations set by their governments. According to Wilson (2011) China, North Korea, and Vietnam as a communist and authoritarian states are recognized for limiting internet access and controling internet users.
In addition, social media is only popular for the young generation based on OECD (2009), cited in Stieglitz, Brockmann, and Xuan argue that young people spend more time getting information in the internet than watching television or reading news papers. Based on data in Wilson (2011), 95 % of young Japanese have access to the internet. They use the internet to get news, information, and communicate. Therefore, social networks cannot reach old people as potential voters.
In conclusion, although there are several drawbacks of using social media in political campaigns. In my opinion, social media is still a powerful media to spread political messages, because candidates can use these tools to receive sympathy and trust from voters. Social media connects thousands of volunteers or potential voters. It provides quickly and accurate information. In addition, the usage of social media reduces the cost of political campaigns. Importantly, the last benefit is internet users are increasing now, therefore it is really effective to use this media in today’s technological era.
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