Photo courtesy of Flickr user Pixelant
Politics and Social Media? Yup, social networking sites have elevated their impact to include almost all significant politicians. After President Obama created his Twitter, politicians in Eastern Europe started to replicate his social media networking strategy. Public relations firms claim that President Obama’s use of Twitter and other social media networking sites was a big factor in gaining public approval during the 2008 American Presidential campaign. And this digital revolution has now spread to Eastern and Central Europe.
Politicians like Estonian President Toomas Hendrik and former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev both began to utilize Twitter to increase their own fan base. However, Medvedev’s 1.9 million followers is nowhere close to Obama’s 26 million followers. So is Twitter actually a good resource for Eastern European politicians?
Critics like Phillip Koker, an active researcher on political social networking, claim perhaps Eastern European politicians should not invest their time and resources to social media. Eastern European countries generally have smaller populations and therefore these sites will not garner a strong impact like President Obama’s Twitter. Additionally, although Internet access in Eastern Europe is now as widespread as Western Europe, smart phones with Internet access are not readily and regularly used by the common citizen, which destroys the spontaneity feature of Twitter.
Social Media researchers claim that Twitter followers enjoy the spontaneous and urgent nature of Twitter. But, if followers do not have easy access to Internet on their smart phones, the spontaneity aspect disappears. However, I still believe that social networking is important in developing economies in Eastern Europe. Although urgency is absent, Twitter serves as a tool for political figures to highlight their individual personalities. Twitter allows the public a sneak peak into the personal lives of important political figures – a step behind their polished shoes and fancy suits. Furthermore, social networking sites provide the common man to see eye to eye with usually inaccessible political figures. For example, President Obama frequently tweets pictures of his dog, his children, and his personal life to show that he too lives the regular American lifestyle. In a way, this comforts audiences and provides citizens with a false, yet believable, easy access into Obama’s life.
In fact, the advent of the radio changed the 1924 American election. In order to gain public approval, incumbent President Coolidge delivered his speech on 26 radio stations and even conducted daily radio talk shows. Therefore, I believe that social media networking will soon play a large role in Eastern European countries. Although the technology isn’t readily widespread yet, politicians can get a head start today by building up their fan base. As discussed in Professor Druker’s Social Media Networking class, there is tendency in today’s society from shifting leisure time offline to online. Leisure time, which used to be categorized by playing sports or shopping in the mall, has now turned to social media networking sites. If politicians who are attempting to gain a seat in office utilize social networking sites, they will inevitably be recognizable figures to the public. Today, many individuals do not even pay attention to politics. Therefore, if a political figure is simply garnering attention on social networking sites like Twitter, the campaigner may inevitably have a high public approval.
For more information on the intersection of politics and social media, log on to http://swampland.time.com/2013/08/14/main-tweet-researchers-dig-into-the-intersection-of-politics-and-twitter/
Feature Image courtesy of Flickr user Juerg Vollmer