IMPACT OF SOCIAL MEDIA ON POLITICAL CHANGE IN USA

Abstract

The competition in politics for elective and other political posts have undergone transformation especially in the modern era. Unlike in the earlier centuries, the 21st century is characterized by heavy political campaigns in an attempt to lure the voters in favor of a candidate. Since politics is a game of numbers, the politician always to try to mobilize a large crowd behind them. In order to reach out a larger crowd, politicians have advanced their campaign beyond the ordinary roadshows and public arena. Social media has become the latest in politics. Politicians use social media and other networking sites to campaign and popularize themselves and to their sell their policies. On the other hand, social media is often used by those seeking elective posts to mobilize resources and financial support in order to raise enough funds to support their campaigns.

Definition of social media

Social media refers to a mode of interaction among people who are in a position to create, share and do information exchange through the use of highly accessible and scalable publishing techniques. Common social media websites are normally created using web based applications and mostly would run on web browsers. It is a two-way communication stream, unlike the traditional media whereby messaging is published through a one-way communication stream to the masses, such as in the cases of radio, television and newspapers.

Social media is made up of online tools and websites which encourage many people to interact with organizations, brands and people hence forming communities through creating, publishing, and content sharing. Media has been changing pretty fast and has taken different forms including social networking sites such as Facebook, blogs, MySpace and microblogs such as Twitter, content communities such as YouTube, Flickr and virtual worlds such as Second Life, social gaming, podcasts, and wikis.

Current political changes in USA

For the first time ever in the history of the American politics, one’s ideologies and sound campaign strategies were viewed as the winning strategy. On the other hand, the Americans made history by voting in a man of black descent in the name of Barrack Obama. With his origin and roots placed in the African country of Kenya, Barrack Obama beat his close contestants with the theme of “Change We Believe In.” some of the changes that have so far been experienced in the US political arena include:

  • The centralization of ethics and lobbying of information for voters:The Obama administration or the current government unlike the previous one’s has gone a step further to create a centralized Internet database of lobbying reports, ethics records, and campaign finance filings in a searchable, sortable and downloadable format.
  • Requirement of Independent Monitoring of Lobbying Laws and Ethics Rules:The power of the presidency is being used to fight for an independent watchdog agency which will in turn oversee the investigation of congressional ethics violations so that the public are actually assured that ethics complaints will indeed be investigated to completion.
  • End the Practice of Writing Legislation behind Closed Doors: The restoration of the American people’s trust in their government by making the government more open and transparent is the idea behind all this undertaking. Efforts to reform congressional rules to require all legislative sessions, including committee mark-ups and conference committees shall be conducted in public as part of indeed putting up a transparent government that has an obligation to its citizens. The American people will therefore be able to hold their leaders accountable for wasteful spending and lawmakers will not be in any position able to slip favors for lobbyists into bills at the last minute.

Publics and Economy

Create a public contracts and influence database: This database will to a greater extent help to disclose up to how much federal contractors spend on lobbying, the kind of contracts they are getting and how well they complete them. Expose Special Interest Tax Breaks to Public Scrutiny: Tax breaks for corporate recipients or tax earmarks will equally be available publicly on the Internet in an easily searchable format. End Abuse of No-Bid Contracts: The law shall require that all contract orders which will surpass $25,000 will be competitively awarded. Sunlight before signing: Quite often, bills are rushed through Congress and then to the president for signing before the public has had the opportunity to review them. No non-emergency bills shall be signed without having given the American public the opportunity to review and make comments on the White House website for at least five days.

Hold 21st century fireside chats: Democracy and policy will be brought directly to the people by requiring cabinet officials to hold periodic national broadband town hall meetings to discuss issues before their agencies. Make White House communications public: An amendment to executive orders to ensure all communications about regulatory policymaking between persons outside government and all White House staff shall be disclosed to the public. Conduct regulatory agency business in public: All appointees leading executive branch departments and rulemaking agencies should conduct significant business of the agency in the public for any citizen to see the debates or alternatively watch them on the internet.

Close the revolving door on former and future employers: No political appointees will be allowed to work on regulations or contracts directly and substantially in relation to their previous employers for two years. Similarly, no political appointees will be able to lobby the executive branch after leaving government service during the remainder of the administration. Free career officials from the influence of politics: Issuance of an executive order by the government requiring all new hires at the agencies to sign forms affirming that no political appointees offered them the jobs solely on the basis of political affiliation or contributions.

Enforce executive branch ethics: The Office of Governmental Ethics has very strong enforcement authorities with the ability to make binding regulations. It intends to work with inspectors general in all the federal agencies to enforce ethics rules, minimize waste and ensure federal officials are not using their offices for personal gain. It will equally be the clearinghouse of all public records relevant to ethics in the Executive Branch and place this information on its website. The OGE will promulgate rules and procedures to record all oral and in-person lobbying contacts between registered lobbyists and political appointees and make the records available to the public in a computerized database.

Performance team and chief performance officer: Creation of a focused team within the White House working with agency leaders and the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for improvement of results and outcomes for federal government programs while eliminating wastes and inefficiencies. The unit will be composed of top-performing and highly-trained government professionals. It will be headed by a new Chief Performance Officer (CPO) who will happen to report directly to the president. This CPO will work with federal agencies to set tough performance targets and hold managers responsible, accountable for progress. The president will meet regularly with cabinet officers to review the progress their agencies are making toward meeting performance improvement targets.

Protect whistleblowers: It has shown that the best source of information about waste, fraud and abuse in government is an existing government employee committed to public integrity and willing to speak out. These acts of courage and patriotism could sometimes save lives and taxpayer dollars. They should thus be highly encouraged rather than stifled. There is a lot of need to empower federal employees as watchdogs of wrongdoing and partners in general performance. Whistleblower laws will be strengthened to protect federal workers exposing waste, fraud and abuse of authority in governments. Federal agencies will expedite the process for reviewing whistleblower claims and whistleblowers have full access to courts and due process. Line-by-line review of spending: Line-by-line review of the federal budget, work to eliminate government programs which are not performing and demand that new initiatives be selected on the basis of merits not through a political process which rewards lobbyists and campaign donors.

Social Media and USA politics

Up to about two out of five U.S. adults use social media to get involved in politics. However, the younger crowd and the ideologically committed are especially active as depicted in a study released in Oct. 19.60 percent of adults as per Pew Research Center showed that social sites such as Twitter and Facebook are mostly used and that two-thirds of these — 39 percent of all adults in the United States use social media for political activities or civic education. The study proceeds to show that users who talk about politics regularly or those who have very firm ideologies and political ties are the most likely to be active on the social media sites more often. Pew equally mentions that individuals aged 18-29 are more likely in positions to post their own comments than older users as compared to those with at least some college experience.

During the campaign season, most social media users, especially those caring about politics use the tools to debate others, stay in touch with political candidates, flag political news stories and analysis which happen to be important to them plus press their friends into action. Around 35 percent of social media users have used the tools to encourage people to vote, the study showed, with Democrats at (42 percent) which is slightly higher as compared to their counterparts the Republicans at (36 percent) and the independents coming in at (31 percent).

Around a third post their own comments or thoughts, or happen to repost content from other users on the social media websites. 21 percent of persons using Twitter or other social media belong to a group on some networking site which is directly or indirectly associated with political or social issues or working towards a certain targeted cause. Highlights of the Pew Internet Project’s research relating to social media and networking vividly indicate that as of December, 2012, 67% of online adults used social networking sites. The breakdown is as follows:

  • 67 per cent of online adults used Facebook.
  • 16 per cent of online adults used Twitter.
  • 15 per cent of online adults used Pinterest.
  • 13 per cent of online adults used Instagram.
  • 6 per cent of online adults used Tumblr.

As of August, 2012, 20 per cent of online adults had used LinkedIn. Women have significantly been more likely the users of social networking sites than men since 2009. In December 2012, 71 per cent of women were users of social networking sites, compared with 62 per cent of men. Between February 2005 and August 2006, use of social media and sites among young adult internet users ranging from ages 18-29 jumped from 9% to 49%.

Social media and networking sites

The most common sources of social media used by people in the US include among others:

  1. Facebook– This is the most popular social networking site that has more than 800 million users globally. This site is often used as a marketing site and interaction hence used to popularize some brands and goods.
  2. Twitter– A widely used micro-blogging and social networking service with approximately about 200 million users. Twitter helps in linking customers and with their clients, hence facilitating trade and other forms of interaction with no financial transaction involvement.
  3. MySpace– Although it has been struggling much in recent years, it has been popularity among the users and it has attracted nearly 34 million users globally.
  4. Ning– Allows users to create their personal user customs for their brands, products, services or anything else they may want plus allow them to interact with their 10 million users in the network.

Perhaps the most misunderstood medium in all of politics and campaigning for that matter is the Internet.  Arguably because it is quite a new venture and partly because it is technical thereby requiring some know how to go about it. Consultants, candidates and volunteers tend to overestimate the power of the Internet, and fail to realize the real ways in which it could help spice up their campaigns and propel them to winning ways. However, the Internet will not magically bring in fundraising dollars on its own just like that without efforts or taking the place of television advertising.  Used in the right manner though, the Internet can and will be of great benefit to one’s campaigns.

Politicians will equally use social media to enable them to get information out quickly and cheaply. Similarly, social media helps politicians get feedback on the various campaigns they may have conducted previously, either positive criticisms or some gossip information they may rightly get and would have so much required as regards to their opponents which they would quickly use against them to propel them to winning more support and eventually help them secure a seat in the respective contests they may be making. The Internet is a great and nice way to get press releases, issue papers, articles and even campaign posters or materials out to the public in a short amount of time. With the advent of software’s or programs from the Internet, one would quickly download templates to come up with some campaign material in the form of posters, fliers thereby helping to save large amounts of time that would have required one to sit on a desktop machine to do the same from scratch. The web therefore still remains as a major way to make campaign materials available to the voters at large.

Politicians will use social media to help provide extra information for those who want it. The politician’s campaign website is actually the best place to post issue papers, reports, responses to opponents’ attacks.  In political mail pieces, an individual could talk about an issue and then re-direct those who want more information to their website.  Similarly, you could let reporters know that any additional research items for a particular story are available on the campaign website.

To therefore help supplement several other campaign activities especially where the web will not take the place of physical campaigning, it is a great way to supplement the other campaign activities through use of the social media. The politician could offer a special web section in conjunction with their major donor programs that comprise only of members information and are accessible only by that donor group.

Use of social media to manipulate citizen’s mind

Politicians will want to stay connected with supporters. Phone calls and mailings take time and money to help in disbursing information say to a large mass of supporters.  Through use of e-mail lists, they help a great deal to stay in touch with supporters. One can quickly respond to attacks, mobilize supporters for an event like a campaign rally to chat the way forward, remind supporters to go to the polls plus ensure they hold the entire exercise peacefully, keep the political campaign in their minds and all this done for a fraction of the cost of direct mail or phone calls. Much as there are hundreds if not thousands of social networking sites, politicians ought to pick out their battles effectively. To efficiently utilize one’s campaign resources without overreliance on dozen staff members, focus should be made on the few but most popular social media sites then proceed to make quality presence in them. Sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn will be good for a start and will help put up a good campaign strategy.

Consistency will play a much bigger role. The social networking presence should be put up together with the overall campaign communications. This implies that the color schemes should match as much as possible, the voice and tone should have consistency and the overall campaign message and goal must remain the same throughout across all mediums. The campaign message is the focal point of all of the campaign’s activities including the various online activities.  The message must thus be ensured that it is in front, at the centre of the politician’s website, in e-mails and as part of the politician’s social networking presence.

Unlike the likes of TV, radio, direct mail, and even one’s website, social networking sites are not to be used for advertising per se.  One cannot therefore design a page on Facebook and then set it for access to other users to interact with it then just forget about it.  The one and only way social media sites will correctly and effectively work for political campaigns is through engagement.  Politician will therefore be required to post new stories, connect with new people who either may have requested to join the network or are new to the social media site, answer questions on various campaign issues raised to them by other users and be engaged.  For most medium-sized campaigns, a member of the staff should be doing this work, not the candidate themselves. A press secretary or someone from the communications staff may be the right person to handle such but that will equally be based or depend on the size of the campaign.

Striking a balance in one’s communications efforts is an important venue to venture into.  Many candidates may tend to spend far too much time on Twitter or Facebook, and neglect grassroots rallies, fundraising calls and even small events.  Some other outdated candidates cannot be bothered with social media sites and tend to refuse to allow their staff to spend time online interacting on social media sites.  Try to avoid both extremes, include social media interaction as part, but not all, of your overall communications strategy. This will help a great deal should there be some damage on the one hand, then there would be a plan B as a quick workaround to avoid spoiling everything.

 

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