How social media is changing political campaigns

How social media is changing political campaigns

Elections are decided by small percentage of the population that consists of undecided voters. Mastering the art of social media strategies is essential for political campaigns to sway these voters. A guest post by 2012 Obama campaign alum Domonique James.

Political campaigns have become more intentional about where and with whom they invest their money. Technology and digital advertising are driving these decisions largely because the internet and social media have fundamentally changed how campaigns strategize and communicate with their constituents.

Candidates, advocacy groups, and operatives are under more pressure than ever to get the right message, in front of the right person, at the right time. In fact, Borrell and Associates projected that 2016 political ad spending will top $8 billion, with over $1 billion on digital ads alone.

Below are four ways in which digital and social media advertising are changing politics.

Campaigns are investing more in digital

Digital advertising reinforces other outreach efforts and campaigns and causes are allocating more of their budgets to digital buys. In December 2015, The New York Times reported that digital ad spending is projected to grow by 13.5 percent in 2016. The cost of serving a digital ad is a fraction of the cost compared to traditional mediums.

Source: WebpageFX

An online presence creates legitimacy

The internet is not going anywhere, and technology will only be further integrated into society. Nearly two-thirds of US adults use social media, and for many, it is the first source for news and information gathering. Online ads not only put campaigns in a position of power by bolstering efforts, but also provide an easy way to communicate relevant news and messaging to an increasingly captive audience.

A lack of an online presence can very well mean that a candidate or cause does not exist in the eyes of a voter. Social movements such as Black Lives Matter and Occupy Wall Street have grown exponentially by coordinating online activity with live demonstrations and rallies and ensuing media coverage.

Social media has created greater accountability

Social media platforms allow for voters to experience a deeper level of connectivity with a campaign, and every post, tweet, and policy stance is scrutinized by the world. The internet is the great equalizer; everyone has a soapbox and 39% of US adults engage in political activities via social networking sites. It takes a split second to become a trending topic, and all of the presidential candidates have trended on Twitter this election cycle over accusations of flip-flopping on issues. As a result, candidates may have to spend the following new cycle justifying their stance or retracting a statement for fear of losing votes.


Social media drives action

The most convenient way for a voter to engage with a campaign is online. At the click of a button, one can donate money, complete a poll, RSVP for an event, or sign a petition to demonstrate their support. In September 2015, Twitter launched $Cashtag, an online platform that allows users to donate directly to political campaigns or causes via a Tweet. President Obama notably leveraged the power of online advertising by raising over $504 million from digital efforts during his 2012 campaign.

Source: Twitter

Election Day is over seven months away, however, campaign operatives already know the exact number of votes needed to win their race. They know their allies, their opposition, and cannot invest a lot of time experimenting with strategies that may not yield a return.

Whether the goal is to influence policy, influence legislators, or confront or congratulate a candidate, a targeted online program enables campaigns to be more effective by serving specific messages, to specific voters, on the devices and social networks best suited for them. Ultimately, this boosts civic engagement, and that is a win for everyone.

Domonique James is an entrepreneur, 2012 Obama campaign alum, and currently director of business development at RMS Interactive. She can be reached at

Categories: North America, Politics

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Guest Post

This article was published as part of the GRI Guest Post Series. GRI guest posts come from leading experts in business, government, and academia. The series strives to bring a diverse range of perspectives on the critical issues of our time. The views expressed in this article are solely that of the author and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of GRI.