On September 26, 1960, millions of Americans across the nation turned on their television to watch the first-ever televised presidential debate between Senator John Kenny and Vice President Richard Nixon. The presidential candidates held four debates, in which each debate concentrated on different issues and the candidates provided their views on the issues and their solution. Referred to today as the “Great Debate,” the televised debate significantly impacted American voters, influencing their opinion of the presidential candidates.
Although today presidential candidates still debate on television and Americans continue to tune in, candidates are turning to a new outlet to reach the American people: social media networks. Social media has already proven itself an effective tool in capturing the attention of online audiences with many businesses and organizations turning to various networks to gain customers as well as build brand awareness. Everyday people also utilize social media to engage and interact with others. Now social media is becoming a political platform for people to learn about candidates and share information and their views. Users can become fans or follow candidates, post their views on candidates and their policies, and engage with others.
During the presidential election of 2008, many Americans engaged on social media networks, whether posting their political views, sharing an article or watching a video. That year the king of social media, Facebook, had 44.3 million users and the accompanying favored social media network, Twitter, had 3.4 users. However, this election, Emarketer predicts that these numbers will significantly climb with Facebook users growing to 143.3 million and Twitter users growing to 24.1 million. But, be mindful that Facebook and Twitter are only two of the more than 200 social media sites.
With the 2012 presidential election just underway with less than four months for Americans to cast their vote, candidates are using the various social media outlets to reach the American public. In fact, 62% of voters, most notably those of the younger generation, anticipate candidates to make their debut social media appearance. Also, because of social media sites, 51% of social media users will learn about the 2012 presidential candidates. It seems social media has become the new political power tool.