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Social Media: The New Polling Machine?

Have you ever logged on to Facebook or Twitter and noticed a common theme among statuses or tweets? Within minutes you probably found yourself exploring what all the buzz was about. By the end of the day, you probably commented on the trending topic yourself.

Whether the breaking news relates to celebrity gossip, an economic catastrophe or Election Day, if the news is big enough, it’s only a matter of time before the hype consumes your entire news feed or home page. Social media not only provides its audiences with information on trending topics but also can be utilized to sway audiences’ opinions on certain topics, ideas and even election campaigns.

Election Day was definitely not overlooked by Facebook and Twitter users. Starting early Nov. 2, statuses presented phrases such as “I’m voting today, are you?” and tweets contained popular themes such as “#Election” and “#electionday.” It’s safe to say Facebook and Twitter users quickly felt pressured to hit the polls.

A note posted on the “U.S. Politics on Facebook” fan page proved that social media not only played a role on Election Day by spreading the word, but it also proved to be quite influential. The title of the note itself, “Facebook Fans Help Predict More Than 70% of Key Races,” summed up how social media may have swayed undecided voters.

The note provided statistics that proved how Facebook users “foreshadowed” winners of the election based on the number of Facebook fans candidates accumulated. The note said, “Facebook tracked 98 of the most hotly contested House races, as decided by leading political observers, and 74 percent of the candidates with the most Facebook fans won their races.” The results were similar for the Senate races, as well.

When winners of an election can be “foreshadowed” on social media sites, it illustrates the influence these sites have on the public. Even though politics should not be a popularity contest, the reality is the public may decide to vote for someone based on the number of Facebook fans or Twitter followers they have. Either way, the impact of this social media “pre-election poll” is huge.

Word-of-mouth takes on a whole new meaning with social media becoming a part of daily life. Social media allows the public to openly contribute and discuss their opinions on whatever subject they want. Whether users know it or not, they have a major influence on what people think and talk about. Because of this new shift in control, PR professionals prioritize social media users as a target audience. Professionals now monitor social media sites excessively to respond to any negative buzz on a subject they’re representing.

This sounds like a hard task to accomplish, which is why there are certain PR jobs set aside specifically for the social media realm. What once started as an outlet to interact and socialize has now morphed into one of the biggest opportunities, and possible threats, for PR professionals.

By Laura Rabushka


  1. Post comment

    Great post! I agree that social media is both a threat and an opportunity for PR professionals. There are many brands that respond well to social media, and have aligned themselves with a consistent and authentic image. In my opinion, the most credible politicians are ones that interact directly with the public via Twitter, Facebook and other social media outlets. No longer can we control the messages that are disseminated to the people. That is why it is so important for both politicians and corporations to be as transparent as possible and practice a multidimensional form of communication, rather than one-way communication.


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