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Politics and Facebook: changing campaigns forever

How social media used in the 2012 Presidential campaigns will change UK politics forever.

Spreading the word online puts politicians in direct contact with the voter.

Spreading the word online puts politicians in direct contact with the voter.

Can Facebook, Twitter and Google make politics relevant again or even fun? If the 2012 US Presidential campaigns are any guide then it looks like the answer to that is yes.

A new generation of internet-savvy activists are helping to change how political campaigns are being run. Moving away from the offline static newspaper advert or the easily-missed party-political broadcast, instead they’re moving campaigns to the dynamic online world.

At the forefront of this are sites you’d associate with keeping you connected with friends and family. Now the likes of Facebook and Twitter are enabling politicians to get their messages sent directly into people’s homes, phones and consciousness in ways never possible before.

At a time when public opinion of politicians is at an all-time low and public engagement in elections is equally apathetic, this type of direct campaigning could reignite interest in politics and help revitalise a generation disconnected from the political world.

A high-profile route for this new social politics is through official Facebook pages such as US Politics along with official Facebook guidance on how to run a better campaign page.

Twitter has also become a powerhouse for driving political campaigns through popular “hashtags” such as #GOP2012. The other empowering element of Twitter is that it brings ‘followers’ directly into political events, as people attending conferences and rallies send live tweets that encourage debate.

Sites like election.twitter.com bring their own type of interactive analysis of political debate by dissecting the tweets put out there. All of this helps establish the 2012 Presidential campaign as the “US Twitter election”, even if it’s the Twitter boss himself giving it that label.

With President Obama appearing on a Google+ Hangout earlier in 2012 and just recently answering questions on the popular online community site Reddit, there’s no doubt politicians will be using social networks to engage with their electorate more and more.

While such events could be dismissed as political stunts, social media is a two-way system that makes the voice of voters difficult to ignore. As people use social networks to vent their opinions, so politicians will have to learn to use them to spread their message and counter points if they want to keep their fingers on the pulse.

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