As the U.S. is at the start of what will be a heavily contested election season, it may turn out that political interactions that occur online will be the ones that are most likely to change opinions.
Sure, friends and strangers will debate the issues in public and private places throughout the next two months but the real deluge will be felt online.
Like no other time before (yet in line with the trend that we saw with the Summer Olympics), this October and November will dump a barrage of politics into the social networking sites we use every day.
According to research released by Harris Interactive and Pew Internet and compiled into an infographic by MGD Advertising, a majority of social media users expect to have access to candidates and learn more about candidates via social media.
The massive amount of dollars spent on social advertising by both parties is estimated to reach unprecedented amounts; at the very least doubling what it was in 2008 in conservative estimates.
Rather than prompting others to learn something new about a candidate or an issue, political posts will most likely inform the reader of something new about the person who posted the update…
While users are used to dealing with, which in most cases means ignoring, promotions, social ads and other paid means of persuasion on these networks, updates from friends and colleagues can have a profound impact – not so much on influencing views about candidates or issues but on informing views others have of those actually posting the updates.
Rather than prompting others to learn something new about a candidate or an issue, political posts will most likely inform the reader of something new about the person who posted the update, not the subject of the update itself. A research study by Pew Internet released this past spring found:
- 38% of SNS (Social Networking Sites) users have discovered through their friends’ postings that their political beliefs were different to what they thought they were.
Not surprisingly, seeing dissenting opinions can sever online friendship while seeing reaffirming opinions can forge new online relationships.
- 18% of SNS users have blocked, unfriended, or hidden someone on the (social networking) site because the person either posted too much about politics, disagreed with political posts, or bothered friends with political posts.
- And 16% of SNS users have friended someone whose political posts have appealed to them.
A new section of the report released this Tuesday finds “the clear majority of SNS users do not report that their use of the (social networking) sites has changed their political views or activity.”
Breaking through the noise and winning voters for your cause through social networking sites will be an incredibly daunting task, however, campaigns and ardent supporters will flood the channels like never before. Minds will be changed and, in many instances, the opinions being revised will be those about the person posting and not the candidate or issue. As this plays out on a scale multiple times larger than past elections, this season will lend itself as one that gives Americans an excuse to shed some old friends and make some new ones who are just a little more like themselves, on screen at least.