A Modern Lovestory: When Politics Met Snapchat
Earlier this year I couldn’t keep calm when I came across Snapchat accounts of the US Presidential Candidates. The politics student within me died from happiness whenever I saw Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders update their Snapchat stories. However, to somehow validate my overwhelming excitement about this political intervention of social media landscape, I had to find out whether I was the only one getting so hyped about this. And so I decided to carry out my own investigation and see how my friends reacted to this new type of content on social media.
In order to do this, I created an online survey using Google forms, which asked the respondents to measure to what extent they agreed with certain statements on a 5 point scale. My prediction was that the US candidates are using Snapchat in attempts to appeal to the younger audiences, but whether millennials would find that engaging was the topic in question. I was also curious to find out whether it is now widely accepted to show support for a political cause on social media.
Literature tells us that millennials prefer social media as their main medium of interaction and they use it actively to socialise with their peers and access information. It is in this context that ‘extreme polarization and partisanship’ of traditional media prompts a search for new platforms of communication. But, with the arrival of political content on social media platforms like Snapchat, does it not go against this assumption?
Anyways, after endless hours spent screenshotting Trump’s and Clinton’s Snapchat stories and numerous Facebook messages — I got the results. But before I continue, I have to admit that these results are by no means representative and not everyone who has completed this survey is a Snapchat user.
62% of the respondents have claimed to use social media to communicate with friends and family and 20% said that they use social media to stay informed about developments in the world. What this tells us that social media has a substantial role in our daily interactions and it is indeed seen as one of the ways to disseminate information. Even though this is not a groundbreaking finding, it sends an important message to the politicians: having a social media account can be seen as an invaluable avenue for reaching out to the followers, especially younger ones, and can prove to be detrimental in the future.
This is perhaps one of the most astonishing results that really struck me — 74% of those surveyed claimed that they would show support for a political cause on social media. Moreover, 94% of the respondents agreed that politicians should use social media for political campaigning. Bearing in mind that the existing literature on this topic argues for social media being the non-political medium of communication, it is very surprising to see the opposite. We seem to have accepted the fact that political content on social media became the new normal and that changing your profile picture simply to add a political slogan is now an ordinary thing to do.
It is fair to note that Snapchat is not a social media website and works as an instant messaging application. Yet the sheer number of politicians on Snapchat suggests that the power of youth vote now lies with those who interact with young voters via the means that the young people would use themselves — through social media and instant messaging.
Moving onto Snapchat, 45% of those surveyed have said that candidates who use Snapchat appear to be progressive and innovative in their campaigns. To what extent these personal features have an actual significance for politicians is unknown. Having said that — they certainly demonstrate that using Snapchat not only gives them another way to mobilise their supporters, but also makes them look better. I’m sure that for many whether the candidate they are supporting is using Snapchat or not, would not be a deal breaker, but it would be interesting to see which category of voters would be the most affected by this matter.
Final and personally the most reassuring finding of this research is that 78% have agreed that using Snapchat does not make politicians look any less serious about the position they are running for. For me, it meant that my unlimited excitement about the introduction of political content to Snapchat was a lot more than just political banter.
According to recent figures, Snapchat is able to reach 41% of all 18 to 34 year-olds living in the US and at least 100 million people use Snapchat everyday. The rules of the game are changing with the new forms of advertising emerging everyday. Following the trend is not a recommendation, it’s a must in order to keep up with the crowd. In the near future, I am sure we can expect to see a lot more political content on social media and this small investigation is just a drop in the ocean of the research that is being carried out about social media nowadays. But with the current political climate and with every Facebook user now able to live stream from anywhere in the world, sooner or later, watching news on social media will be a lot common than it is now.