2016 Elections, And The Role Of Internet Presence: Reddit, Twitter, Facebook

2016 elections are rapidly approaching, and today, internet presence and politics are almost inextricably intertwined. North Carolina House of Representatives candidate Joe Parrish demonstrated this anew on Wednesday, by introducing himself to potential voters — via Reddit. He’s hardly the only candidate who has seen the potential of popular social sites for reaching out to voters, though.

We know that social media presence is a big deal in modern elections, and that it’s almost necessary for reaching voters. Voters follow their preferred candidates on social media, and in many cases also follow opposing candidates. Twitter and Facebook are easy ways to keep up with what candidates are doing and saying in a day were many voters don’t sit down to an hour of television news each night.

For the upcoming 2016 elections, it has also become clear that the candidates themselves know the value of social media presence — Rand Paul, for instance, was keeping a close eye on the “likes” and “follows” back in June, when he proudly announced that he was the first of the 2016 candidates to pass two million Facebook followers.

(Paul no longer holds the distinction of “most followers” — Donald Trump carries over 5 million, though he already had millions when he joined the presidential race, thanks to his fame in non-political venues. Sanders, Carson, and Clinton have also passed him in Facebook followers.)

Rand Paul saw his social media popularity as a sign in 2016 elections [Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images]The value of social media as a tool for 2016 election candidates to connect with voters was also seen during — and immediately after — the December Republican debate. In at least one measure, Bernie Sanders was declared the social media winner; according to Forbes, no other candidate gained as many new Twitter followers during the debate as Sanders.

Retweets (basically, when someone on Twitter shares someone else’s message by reposting that person’s post) have also been used as a measure of popularity for 2016 election candidates and their messages. Twitter Government (@gov) is one entity that follows this activity, and keeps track of which political candidates and moments get the most social media attention. For example, here’s the most-tweeted moment of the December GOP debate.

Of course, while most of the focus is on the 2016 presidential election, there are state and local elections taking place as well. In North Carolina, one candidate has joined the race for a seat in the state’s House of Representatives — and one of his first public moves was to open a Reddit AMA.

Joe Parrish is a 24-year-old Democrat, and it’s clear he knows his base. Gallup polls show that 18- to 29-year-old voters are more likely to vote Democrat — and Pew Research surveys show that virtually everyone in that age group is active on social media.

2016 elections: candidate annunces via Reddit [Image via Reddit]Using Reddit to reach voters isn’t totally new. Several candidates for the 2016 presidential elections have been asked to do AMA (ask me anything) events. Bernie Sanders did one last May. Rand Paul, Ben Carson, Hillary Clinton, and Donald Trump have been requested, among others.

President Obama also did an AMA prior to the 2012 presidential elections. He even followed it up on election night with a post calling for last-minute voters.

“I’m checking in because polls will start closing in this election in just a few hours, and I need you to vote.
Millions of Americans have stepped up in support of this campaign over the last 19 months, and today we decide what the next four years look like — but only if we show up.
I ask that you go out there and cast your vote, whatever your political persuasion.”

Increasingly, a social media presence is a big part of political success. It’s one of the most immediate and direct ways that candidates and current holders of office connect with their constituents and voters. In the 2016 elections, it’s also becoming clearer than ever that social media presents one of the most tangible measures of candidates’ popularity.

[Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images]