January 20, 2012

How Social Media Will Convert Followers into Voters in Election 2012

IN 1960, Americans turned on their TV sets to watch a presidential debate for the first time. They saw Richard Nixon, awkward and sweaty, gripping his podium, his grey attire blending into the grey background. To his right was John F. Kennedy, Jr., calm, tanned, deliberate, standing out in his dark suit. There wasn't much question about who won the first televised debate that night. In an election in which nearly every vote counted, media power shifted public opinion.

Fast forward to 2012. New media have entered the picture and candidates' online social presence is just as, if not more, likely to affect voting. Sixty percent of social media users responding to a survey in October 2011 said they expect candidates to have a social media presence; for almost 40 percent, information found on social media will help determine their voting choices as much as traditional media sources like TV or newspapers. For anyone doubting that a social message is fleeting, 94 percent of social media users of voting age watched a political message in its entirety on a social media site and 39 percent then went on to share it with an average of 130 other users, according to a May 2011 study by Social Vibe.

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