Talking tech since 2003

In just a couple of days, Americans will see President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney go head-to-head for the first time in a national debate. It will be held in the typical debate style, moderated in the same fashion as always, but the outcome will come about in a way we’ve never seen before. In previous years, talking heads on the major news networks would spend days following the debate trying to convince the American people of which candidate won, and why. This time around, analysis, winners, and losers will be decided on Twitter.

Social media started to play a huge role in the 2008 campaigns, and then-candidate Obama leveraged it to his advantage. Since then, it appears that much of the political atmosphere has caught on to the idea–and it makes perfect sense. While many people may be annoyed by the increased political discourse taking place on their usually benign social networks, it’s a reasonable notion to believe that the discussions are effective. In fact, for certain demographics, they may be even more effective than traditional political advertising.

And people are very engaged. This year, twitter records were shattered during both the Republican National Convention and the Democratic National Convention. Even in just 140 characters, people all over the country are able to express their reactions and opinions in real time. Political discourse has gotten so big on Twitter that the company has dedicated a very popular account to aggregate some of the uses.

Facebook users are also engaged. While specific numbers are harder to come by, due to the more closed nature of Facebook, activity is evident. Candidates and their supporting Political Action Committees are spending money on Facebook ads in lieu of television or radio placements. This social engagement appears to be working as well. As we draw nearer to election day, more and more Facebook users are liking the pages of the candidates are are supporting parties. DeductivePolitics.com (full disclosure: I made this service) was built to attempt to guess just how your Facebook friends will likely vote in November. As we get closer to voting, that service has been able to make more accurate predictions.

Nathan Gonzales of The Rothenberg Political Report says:

“Amid all the pregame coverage of the first presidential debate, don’t neglect the Twitter effect. The winner and loser could be decided and the post-game narrative and media coverage could be set before the candidates even leave the stage.”

With the undeniable shift from traditional to social media, it should be obvious that networks like Twitter and Facebook cannot be ignored. People are sharing opinions with hundreds and thousands of people instantly. On occasion, it’s used for more than sharing pictures of breakfast or posting #YOLO.

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