Here’s an interesting article about how social media can influence elections.
It’s having a bigger impact on South Dakota politics than most are likely aware of. This article from the Guardian in the UK highlights how Rapid City Mayor Sam Kooiker was able to use social media to his advantage in the recent mayor’s campaign.
Statistics suggested that most adult residents of the town were on Facebook, and the information about themselves that they offered up on their home pages ? location, date of birth, gender, political affiliation, religion, interests etc ? would allow the campaign to target its message directly to them.Barsch and Kooiker identified more than 30 separate demographic groups of key voters in the town, serving each one with a customised web advert.They created an advert just for first time voters who were 18 years old, using the date of birth information stored on home pages. Then they did the same with distinct adverts for 19-, 20- and 21-year-olds.Police, fire and local government workers were hit with their own customised advert, as were Native Americans through lists of Facebook followers of a radio station popular within that community (it is unlawful to target advertising by race in the US).An advert talking about the hardships of local senior citizens was sent to Facebook users over 60, and another about environmental protection to those who indicated that they liked outdoor pursuits. A commercial geared to older classical music lovers was targetted at Facebook users who had signed up to a campaign protesting at higher council fees imposed on the local Black Hill symphony orchestra.“Instead of talking at people as political campaigns often do, we engaged with them through Facebook with adverts that were humorous and spoke to them,” says Kooiker.The results, he says, were “earth shaking. It’s the difference between the telegraph and the cell phone.”The sitting mayor, by contrast, ran a conventional campaign heavy on expensive TV advertising to the town as a whole. Hanks spent $120,000, $40,000 more than Kooiker, which is a lot in a town like Rapid City.Kooiker won the election by 400 votes, and is now mayor. He says the result was a revelation, showing that even relatively unknown citizens, who are wholly unschooled in the dark arts of conventional politics, can make their democratic mark.Barsch is convinced that the winning margin was achieved through the targeted Facebook campaign, which he calculates cost them $3,000. He is probably right ? the Facebook ads received almost 9m web impressions.
KELO is also running a story on the impact of social media in South Dakota politics.