The Impact of Social Media on an Election

4 Minutes
Chris Kell

I don’t know about you but this week my news feed across various social platforms has been jam-packed full of opinions and comments on the 2017 general election.

Once upon a time social media would not have played part in any election and many of us would not have known about so many people’s opinion on such a topic. Gone are the days of secret voting.

Today, social media is used to discuss candidates in an election campaign and politicians can post their manifestos on their own platforms in addition to targeting groups through paid advertising. So, is social media making a positive or negative impact? We had a discussion at Wish about the positive and negative effects of social media on politics…..

During live political debates, twitter feeds are displayed on screens in real-time, allowing viewers to see what others are currently saying about the debate. This can change the impact and the perception of the discussion, as many opinions may be swayed by others rather than forming their own opinion. Tweeters have also been known to comment on facial expressions or characteristics of certain politicians which the viewer then focuses on, instead of listening to what the politician has to say.

The BBC even Live Streamed a political debate, could this be an indication of how important social media will become?

BBC Live Stream Political Debate

Another impact social media has is memes and content aimed at mocking a politician or political party. Some people have been taking quotes or pictures from debates and campaign events to post on social media with funny twists or speech bubbles. Places like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are prime spots for such pictures and quotes that are edited and changed for a mocking purpose.

Twitter Election Meme

Many users went online this week to share their personal opinions and there were some negative comments floating around towards others if opinions differed, which could be hurtful comments. This caused some users to post status updates about letting everyone have their own opinion and not to put others down.

On the other hand, social media can positively spark debate and interaction between friends and family. In the past, opinions were very much more secretive as to which way they were voting. Now social media provides an area for many to discuss their opinions. As news feeds are spammed with nothing but the topic of the day this makes many certainly curious and want to take an interest in the conversation, even if they do not post anything themselves. Perhaps this interaction has played a part towards the high turnout rate at the electoral stations. It was noted that yesterday was a record year as 70% of Britons voted, something which has not happened since 1997.

It is speculated that this could be down to the high number (72%) of younger voters aged 18-24. As one of the largest audience for social media perhaps this is a key indicator as to how social media has impacted their political contribution. Additionally, it is worth noting that politicians can capture the younger market by posting adverts and sponsored campaigns across the various social platforms.

So, the answer to the question of whether the effects of social media platforms and wide global use are positive or negative isn’t an easy one to answer – it’s probably a bit of both. In the case of an individual politician it may depend whether it’s a good or bad story or piece of news that is being shared socially. Anything that builds awareness though and brings more people to the polling booths is surely a positive.

The Future

As technology continues to be more pervasive in our lives, more people will probably get their information from channels such as Twitter, Facebook etc. These platforms are quick to impact the minds of many citizens who access them on a regular basis.

These are just a few personal takes on how social media may have impacted the 2017 election and there are no right or wrong answers to this or definite facts that any of these views are true. It remains to be seen whether these social tools are used more by people who make positive changes or ones that take advantage and use them negatively. It will be interesting to see how much they are utilised and play a role in any future elections.

As a web design and digital marketing agency we know how Social Media is having an ever increasing impact on everyday life for both personal and business lives. We would love to discuss how Social Media can improve your business, just get in touch!