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Why social media could swing the 2016 presidential election

Lauren Brousell | Aug. 28, 2015
Candidates in the 2016 U.S. presidential election use more social networks than politicians of the past, in hopes of tapping the millennial market. However, it's difficult to measure real ROI, and the social trail is fraught with political perils.

This week on Snapchat, Clinton's team posted a photo of Hillary in high school to wish students a happy first day of school. A post like that isn't meant to be a call to action, and on Snapchat it's not possible to include a link to any campaign-related materials. On Pinterest, Clinton posts images of inspiring women, family photos and pictures from the campaign trail, some of which link back to her website.

The goal is to create an image around Clinton, humanize her and make her more relatable, according to Jasso. "Their use of social media has been a good step in softening the image of the former secretary of state."

The Clinton campaign team also live-streamed Hillary's first large rally via social-video service Periscope. The rally was a planned and organized event, and the live stream let more people watch and contribute comments in real time. Jasso says the immediacy of social media services, such as Periscope and Snapchat, can sometimes be hard to control, but effective campaign organizers plan things out and stay on-message as often as possible. "The problem with immediacy is that it offers you an opportunity but also a big danger. When there is that break in continuity or consistency, it can be fatally damaging to a candidate."

(CIO.com reached out to Clinton's team for comment on its social media efforts but did not receive a response.)

Social media companies want in

Candidates aren't the only ones putting forth efforts on social. Social media providers are also getting involved and Snapchat is probably the most notable example.

Ahead of the Republican Debate a few weeks ago, Snapchat launched a curated "Story" that showed behind-the-scenes clips of the event. Political candidates also launched ads on Snapchat. For example, Republicans John Kasich and Scott Walker both contributed 10-second ads to a Snapchat Story for an Iowa campaign event. And Snapchat hired former CNN political reporter Peter Hamby to be its head of news, to drive its efforts to become a news medium, especially for the upcoming election.

"[Snapchat has] gone from being a simple social media toy to now being a recognized news media source of information for many people," says Jasso. "They've captured a niche, they know how to work it and they're doing a very good job of it. They will wind up becoming one of the most significant players."

Twitter is also involved in the election and appears to be trying to give politicians more control over their public speech. The company recently shut down two apps that showed politicians' deleted tweets.

Social gives candidates a millennial in-road

In addition to Clinton, other political candidates have been making noise on social media. Republican Jeb Bush used Snapchat to announce his presidential campaign, for example, and then promoted the launch of his Super Political Action Committee (PAC) fund raiser with video clips on Instagram. Republican Rand Paul produced ads for Snapchat that discuss his views on the U.S. tax code. And Donald Trump, also a Republican, used Periscope to announce his candidacy.

 

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