With less than thirty-five days until this year’s Presidential election and early voting already underway, tonight’s debate represents a critical opportunity for both candidates to determine the outcome of the election. This is more than an issue of timing.
The proliferation of citizen media, and especially social media, has given potential voters more information and campaign marketing in a condensed time frame than ever before in electoral history. What’s more, their own social media channels has allowed every citizen to share their opinions, choice and even parodies with friends, peers and colleagues using their own social media channels.
As a result, notwithstanding the important role that a small percentage of undecided voters in the swing States will play, tonight’s debate and the social media spectacle it has become will have a profound effect on the Presidential election.
Here are ten reasons social media will dramatically increase the impact of this first debate on the final election outcome .
1. SOLIDIFICATION: The debate and surrounding news coverage will crystallize voter sentiment that will be shared in real-time before, during and after the debate across all social media channels.
2. HEIGHTENED STAKES: As Mitt Romney prepares ‘zingers’ and President Obama seeks to address economic issues, the heightened scrutiny of real-time social media engagement makes such choices even more consequential.
3. MEDIA CONVERGENCE: Social media has now been fully integrated into traditional news coverage of the debate complete with real-time updates and viewer sentiment reports before, during and after the event.
4. TECH FLUENCY: A steady diet of social media tools and content has elevated the media literacy of the viewers such that ever spectator is now a potential pundit tracking the words, body language and tone of each candidate.
5. SPECTACLE: Both parties have adjusted their strategies to factor in the social media spectacle of the debate whether it be through 140 character ‘zingers’, partisan ‘soundbites’ or campaign marketing that invites viewers to share moments favorable to their Party in real-time.
6. CONTRACTION: Social media has accelerated the drift towards bullet-point and sound-bite reporting in which the winner of a nuanced and lengthy debate is determined by messaging short and simple enough to spread exponentially.
7. PARODY: Social media and auto-publishing has empowered citizens to ridicule and expose political candidates with ruthless efficiency further polarizing voter positions.
8. IMPATIENCE: A real-time mentality driven by platforms like Twitter has compounded an natural impatience in voters to the point that viewers and pundits seek to declare a winner in the opening volleys, or in the first debate, that will shape their opinions till the election.
9. ACTIVISM: An early consolidation of voter preferences allows citizens to then invest their own energy sharing their opinions with their closest family, friends and peers across social media channels.
10. PREDICTIONS: Dense engagement with voters has accelerated decision-making and in turn will lead to even earlier predictions of a winner prior to the Election.
Increasingly the four year election cycle and political campaigning are under siege form the real-time demands of citizens fluent in social media. Its effect has been to condense time and decision making when it comes to voter preferences, and tonight represents a watershed moment after which it will be hard to shift such perceptions. As such, social media isn’t merely changing voter engagement, it’s redefining how politicians win elections.