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Candidates jump on social media bandwagon

By Keith Goble, state legislative editor

As the use of social media has boomed in recent years, the reaction from candidates has been to follow the trend. That is welcome news for truckers and others who want a stronger voice in the election process.

Truckers are most familiar with social media websites like Facebook and Twitter. There, people online can come together to catch up, chat, swap stories and let the world know what they think about anything and everything. While the sites are largely popular for people who want to stay in touch with friends, family and acquaintances, they also serve to bring people closer to other passions they may have, such as politics.

The role of social media in politics is on the rise. In fact, its use has become an important part of campaign strategies the past few years.

President Obama and other Democrats are lauded for making good use of social media during the 2008 election cycle. The results at the ballot that fall were reason enough for candidates and politicians from both sides of the aisle to make the jump onto the social media bandwagon.

One recent study found that Republicans in particular made good use of social media sites during the 2010 election cycle.

The timing could not have been better for the GOP. A study by the Pew Research Center found that by 2010 about one-quarter of online American adults used social networking sites to engage with the election. Involvement included talking with others about a candidate; posting content related to politics or the campaign; and to sign up as a friend of, or to follow, a candidate.

The study also tackled the perception of some that social media is for a generation you have watched grow to adulthood. In reality, that is not the case. Adults over 50 are one of the fastest-growing segments of users when it comes to using social networking sites.

Such popularity among various age groups only solidifies the importance for candidates to communicate online with voters.

Another reason candidates are pooling resources into social media is because people who were surveyed said their main motivation for following political groups on social networking sites is that it helped them feel more personally connected to the candidates or groups they follow. Nearly three-quarters of respondents said it was a reason they followed these groups or candidates.

The personal touch is clear in a Twitter post from South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley. She tweeted recently about “Haley Family Fun Night with Michael and the kids: Homemade pizzas and the movie The Rookie!”

Former Arizona House Speaker and current Congressional candidate Kirk Adams had some fun on Twitter at his own expense. “Back from vacation, good news is it was productive. Secured the endorsement of my wife :)” he told his followers.

In addition, two-thirds of respondents who follow politicians or other political groups on social media sites say the information posted by those they follow is interesting and relevant.

For example, on July 25, Gov. Jerry Brown told his FB friends: “Calling in tomorrow for jury duty … if they need me, I’ll be there Wednesday morning.” He also posted his thoughts on the debt ceiling.

To accommodate the trend toward social media interaction, many elected officials have added personnel to dialogue with constituents online about what they are doing and what they think about certain issues. Candidates are also embracing the online tool to get their message to voters.

This desire for interaction provides voters, including truckers, with a stronger voice on Election Day. LL