Social Media Continues To Change Political Landscape
With social media tools like Facebook and Twitter gaining thousands of users by the day, NY1's Josh Robin takes a look at how the presidential campaigns are using them to reach voters in their race for the White House.
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"Big Bird," "Binders" and "Malarkey." They're words uttered by candidates in this year's presidential debates that are now burned into the nation's political vocabulary, thanks to social media sites that allow observers to trade thoughts, jokes and jabs at the speed of their Wi-Fi connections.
With so many people connecting online, both campaigns have found themselves vying for votes one tweet at a time.
"It’s really interesting to see that Twitter may be the first point of action when you want to understand who see who came out on top on something," said Peter Corbett, a social media expert. "It’s no longer 'Oh, I'm waiting for the headline in the New York Times tomorrow.'"
The battle for the short-term Internet attention spans of the American electorate is one that the president seems to be winning. Obama has over 30 million Facebook fans, dwarfing competitor Mitt Romney, who counts his likers at 9 million. On Twitter, Obama has more than 21 million followers, compared to Romney’s 1.4 million.
"He's built a large audience, going back to his campaign in 2008," said Tyler Brown, director of digital strategy for the Republican National Committee. "But one of the things that we put a large focus on is how we're engaging and how people are responding to the messages and the conversation that we're having online."
Facebook now has over 1 billion users but statistics about whether a possessing a legion of Internet supporters can translate into a win in November aren't as clear. Experts say the key to winning in November is to use technology as a starting point to connect with voters.
"You've got to know who people are, where they live, where they vote and then begin to target them using this new technology to get them to turn out on election day," said Jamal Simmons, a Democratic consultant.
But many say they wonder if the quality of the nation's political debate is being degraded in the digital age.
"I think there's a lot lost when we get into this 24/7 news cycle and this nonstop, frenzied pace of social media," Corbett said. "But it's life and life is not necessarily going to go back to the way it was."