Political influence is under pressure due to social media. Through social media platform tools such as SimplyGram or Facebook algorithm, one can achieve political mileage on the political target audience. Over 48% of the world population relies on social media for information. News on political strategies and decisions can gain lots of influence through social media platforms. One may use it to their advantage by adopting the latest trends in social media options.
Challenges of social media political influence
The political world faces four main challenges based on social media platform use. They are;
- Attention and engagement advertisement
Though political ideologies may differ and some may be more beneficial to the general public, what gets more attention and engagement from the audience depends on the organization running the social media platform. Using the recommender algorithmic and other social media tools, the content that engages more audience receives more coverage. It reaches more people compared to information that could be more helpful to society.
- Social platform of choice
Using behavioral techniques, whether Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter, these platforms look for ways to keep social media influencers more active in their platforms. With attractive settings, options, and other features available on online platforms, it becomes harder to close an account. Political influencers find it hard to leave social media platforms where they have a massive audience. With a big audience, pushing political agendas becomes easy.
- Transparency and accountability
Politics should be transparent, and the leaders should be accountable for their actions and utterances. Due to the mechanism of the algorithmic content, the audience in social media may fail to receive important information. Through polarization messaging and utterances, politicians may create chaos in the political arena. Most social media platforms prioritize information that can generate more engagement online. It may work to the advantage of politicians who engage in social media platforms. Politicians not engaging the target audience in social media, even though their strategies may benefit society, they may not get that advantage.
The main challenge that politicians and online platform users face is authenticity in the information. The online community orients more to negative publicity than a positive one. Politicians may use negative or false information online to influence their followers to support the political agenda in question. Misleading political scripts can lead to extremism. It can also shape public opinion that influences personal beliefs and emotions.
Political influence use through social media
Social media platforms play a big role in politics. They influence mass opinions and decisions on political aspects of any democracy. Below are some of the ways through which social media can influence politics:
- Coverage of political agenda
Politicians understand the influence they have on their followers on online platforms. Through online tools, one can reach the target audience niche. So whatever information the social media platform covers and how the online platform and tools share and engage the audience online impacts the political agenda. The recognition of a politician through online platforms influences the political decision of the public. Politicians who want to influence more people to agree with their agendas usually use social media platform tools to drive their point home.
- Partisan and political bias
Politics is big business in social media platforms. These platforms will offer selective exposure to different political agendas depending on online media engagements and information that excites the public. Social media platforms mainly get information from mainstream media houses who may be partisan in politics. When the media houses become partisans, they create scripts through which they popularize their agenda. Politicians understand this so well. That is why they invest time and financial resources in ensuring their social media platform’s accounts work.
- Direct line and echo chamber to the masses
Studies show that almost 62% of the world population receive news through social media. But the population does not understand the content filtration and bias. Most social media platforms also have an algorithm to ensure social media see the information depending on their likes and preferences. Users do not get the diversity of politics but rather get the echo of what they want. Politicians, through social media platforms, can speak to the audience directly without going through the mainstream media. Most media houses may be biased.
- Democracy watchdog
Social media is no longer a democracy watchdog as it should be. The information shared is no longer filtered. Some politicians block social media platforms from covering political moves in their countries. But that interferes with the freedom of information of the citizens. Social media platform organizations should take responsibility for any information shared online to avoid polarization, especially during voting. Verification of information and clarification through social media helps to build strong democracies.
- Visual communication through social media
Political influence images may help in creating a lasting impression of the politician and their political agendas. That is why politicians regularly post pictures and videos regarding their political agenda. Published images also are evidence of a politician’s utterances and actions. The internet makes it possible for such recorded information to remain in archives for use in future politics.
- Opinion polls and fact checks
Social media will create more awareness of opinion polls during elections or when there are radical political agendas. Opinion polls influence voter perception and decisions. Social media coverage of opinion polls also shows bias in most cases giving certain politicians an advantage. Social media users rarely do a fact check before sharing such information online. Politicians should be careful with their actions and reports to avoid giving the wrong impression to the public.
Though there are regulations to monitor and take down any extremist’s political views, social media platforms may also yield positive feedback through political engagements online. Strategic foresight by politicians and responsible political remarks and actions can help in shaping future democracies. Democracy, digital technology, social media influence, and human behavior knowledge are crucial towards achieving better political relations in all economies. But politicians should positively adapt social media in politics to avoid negative consequences.