Today, only about half of registered voters in America actually vote; a sad statistic of an uninformed, unconcerned population. Social media networks such as Facebook have proven to not only inform voters but to actually improve voter turnout, by using a get-out-the-vote message. Facebook is utilized throughout the year as a channel to influence its users, but Political campaigns have recently started taking advantage of this tool to reach out to potential voters in hopes of gaining their support (Petronzio). A study in the journal Nature showed that a message distributed on Facebook to approximately 60 million users on Election Day in November 2010 helped increase voter turnout by over 300,000 votes (Brown). There are several Facebook supported and social media apps that are targeting voters to hopefully increase voter turnout this November, such as CNN’s I’m Voting App and Votizen (Petronzio).
The Obama campaign has developed its own Facebook app “Are You Registered” targeting young voters. The app allows users to check the status of their voter registration and ask friends to check their status as well. The Obama campaign uses background information visible on Facebook to check public voter registration records and targets users that need to register. Once a user registers, the app gives the option of sending a reminder to twelve friends; the suggested friends are direct targets of the campaign. This use of target marketing allows the Obama campaign to get their message out without seeming aggressive because it utilizes Facebook users’ friends to initiate contact and encourage them to register and go to the polls (Tau).
Social media proves to be the way of the future. Through social media, political campaigns can influence millions of voters at once. Just like in the US Congressional Election in 2010, one message was responsible for one-third of the million votes cast. Even though 300,000 plus votes doesn’t seem significant compared to a million, when a race is close, such as the votes cast in Florida during the Presidential election in 2000, those votes can make all the difference. Social media is also one of the less expensive ways to campaign and let voters know your stance on important issues. The get-out-the-vote message, though distributed through many different channels, shows to have the same effect when delivered through a circle of close friends; seeing friends support a cause makes it much more likely that you too will jump on the band wagon. In respect to the Obama campaign, their “Are You Registered” app is a respectable attempt to encourage potential voters to get involved in the political process. Social media messages have proved to make a difference in past elections, and I’m sure they will have a significant impact on this year’s election as well.
Brown, E., & Times, L. A. (2012, September 13). Facebook helps get out the vote, study finds – Los Angeles Times. Featured Articles From The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 5, 2012, from http://articles.latimes.com/2012/sep/13/science/la-sci-facebook-elections-20120913 Petronzio, M. (2012, October 2). Can Social Media Really Boost Voter Turnout?. Social Media News and Web Tips – Mashable – The Social Media Guide. Retrieved October 5, 2012, from http://mashable.com/2012/10/02/social-media-voter-turnout/ Tau, B. (2012, October 8). Obama campaign pushes voter registration on Facebook – POLITICO.com. Politics, Political News – Election 2012 – POLITICO.com. Retrieved October 10, 2012, from http://www.politico.com/politico44/2012/10/obama-campaign-pushes-voter-registration-on-facebook-137841.html