Social media plays a massive part in the daily routines of most Americans, and people are engaging in social media now more than ever. Numbers of users are continually on the rise, and Facebook has become the most frequently used social media site on the internet, with 79% of Americans engaging on a daily basis (Greenwood, Perrin, & Duggan, 2016). With the rise of a society reliant on technology, government and politics are more influenced by social media than ever before.
The creation of Facebook and Twitter in 2006 led many Americans to turn to both sites as their main sources of news. During the past three presidential elections, Americans have been more likely to get their news from a social media site than other media outlets. Traditional print media is on the decline, and the rise in technology is peaking the interests of various age groups. About 26% of all American Adults get their news information from two or more social media outlets (Grieco, 2017).
The 2008 presidential election was the first in which social media was relevant and played a significant role in campaign success. In previous elections, there were not sites that allowed for users to generate and interact with content online. Social media quickly became a key factor in the election process as a whole, as social networking sites (SNS) such as Facebook and Twitter were introduced in the campaign process, and the candidates were able to post their messaging directly to these platforms. This was a vital advancement in political campaigning and allowed for presidential candidates to use social media as a supplemental platform to spread their messaging and engage with the public. The public, in turn, responded with higher engagement rates with the campaign messaging. Seeing the success that social media had in the 2008 election, the 2012 and 2016 presidential campaigns continued to place a heavy focus use of social media and push the envelope on what else could be done.
This paper will focus on the social media trends in the past three presidential elections and possible influence on elections to come by analyzing the increasing number of social media users in America, the rise in social media from the 2008 to 2016 elections, and the amount of internet users that get their news information from social media sites (such as Facebook and Twitter). For a conclusion to be made, there are various questions that have to be answered. First, how has the rise in social media usage influenced awareness of social and political events? Second, how have changes in social media platforms since the 2008 presidential election affected the way candidates campaign and interact with the public? Third, how has social media led to an increase in false reporting or “fake news?” After answering these questions, it will be determined that the influence of social media has changed the way Americans get their political news. It will also be determined that Americans are heavily influenced by content they interact with on social media platforms. Finally, we will determine that in the future social media will be a very important factor in determining the outcome of elections and play a major role in the campaign process.
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