Social Media and Politics - Voting with TwitterThe approval rating for Congress is near an all-time low hovering around 13 percent. Just to put that in perspective that means that cockroaches and traffic jams are more popular than our elected officials. There are many reasons why their approval rating is that low, but transparency and their ability to be relatable are definitely two primary reasons why people do not approve of Congress.

In the digital age where all news can become viral in a matter of minutes, politicians are still reaching out to voters in the same ways.

During the 2012 elections, all politicians including the revered Obama campaign stayed with mostly traditional methods. They had a large amount of volunteers call and knock on the doors of potential voters and spent massive amounts of money on advertisements. What they didn’t do though was direct engagement over social media. Yes, advertisements and sponsored posts were placed on Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites, but they didn’t take advantage of the power of big data.

There’s so much information on people now that you can realistically link social media sites to voter files. Start-ups like Votizen enabled someone to login and see the political affiliation of their friends and try to sway them to vote for certain politicians. Votizen is a non-profit that encourages voter participation, but why couldn’t this technology be used for more tactical means? Unlike addresses or phone numbers, social media addresses rarely change. You can also see who has read your responses and can micro-target voters much more accurately. Combining technologies like Votizen with a technology like Klout would allow for an unbelievable precision when discussing the roll out of public relations maneuvers like endorsements.

I would argue that a Facebook address is more valuable than an address or phone number. According to Pew, even 32% of people over the age of 65 use social media. That number jumps up to 83% for people between the ages of 18-29. The highly coveted Hispanic demographic uses social media even more than non-Hispanics. Even with this evidence, the political professionals continue to use social media similar to how they use television advertisements, which are not as effective as people are increasingly inundated with information.

Moving towards how politicians and advocacy groups currently use social media, it’s increasingly obvious that only a select few effectively use the technology. The best example of an effective use of social media is Michigan Congressman Justin Amash (R). Amash has accrued over 47,000 likes on his Facebook page even though he doesn’t hold the chairmanship of almost any committee. He has attracted a cult like following similar to former Congressman Ron Paul. With his Libertarian tinge, he announces and explains every vote he makes in Congress. He has hundreds of likes on every post and even though he continues to anger the establishment, his popularity grows due to his openness. This amusing post on Buzzfeed helps illustrate Republicans problems on social media, but Democrats aren’t perfect either as many still use it as a place to post about meetings and propaganda that most people don’t understand nor care about.

Bottom line when it comes to politics and social media:

Stop being afraid. Social media is the best place to sway public opinion and directly engage your audience. Stop trying to use social media as the new replacement for television advertisements and instead use it as a solution to compliment town halls or canvassing. There’s a lot of potential in politics for change, but very few seem to be taking the first step.

Infographic - Social Media in Politics

 Today’s Guest Blog Post Author is:

Patrick O'Keefe

Patrick O’Keefe

Patrick (@Pokeefe363) is a Public Relations and Marketing professional with a specialization in online communications, organizing, and politics. He previously worked as a Field Representative for the College Republican National Committee in Orlando, Florida. Currently, he works as a Large Market Sales Associate at Vocus where we consults corporate executives at Fortune 1000 companies on PR and Social Media. Patrick is also an active blogger, posting about various topics ranging from public relations to politics to technology: