My desk in the Kreps DeMaria office faces two TV screens, which we keep tuned to CNN and MSNBC throughout the day to ensure that we are aware of breaking news. Despite the fact that the next presidential election is still more than a year away, I’ve noticed that these stations can’t resist providing updates and analysis of the candidates’ latest antics on a seemingly ongoing basis.
It’s not just the talking heads on TV that are obsessed with the latest campaign developments. The candidates have also taken things into their own hands, launching robust social media campaigns that infiltrate voters’ daily lives in hopes of garnering support and stirring up debate.
President Barack Obama was arguably the first candidate to successfully utilize social media in order to reach and mobilize voters. In the seven years since he was elected, numerous advancements have been made in the social media realm, including new platforms and increasingly specific targeting tools.
Leading up to the first GOP debate, top-tier media including The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times took interest in the campaigns’ social media plans for the event. The 10 candidates who participated in the debate, as well as those left on the sidelines, were expected to use a mix of targeted advertising and real-time updates to blast their messaging to the masses via platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Google, Meerkat and Periscope.
The social media tie-ins to the televised debate extended further as FOX News partnered with Facebook to produce the event. The moderators posed a few questions that had been submitted by Facebook users to the candidates, and the Facebook logo enjoyed substantial visibility on the screens of the record 24 million viewers who watched.
This first debate was a prime example of how campaigns – and publicists – can harness the power of traditional and social media to effectively reach their target audiences and drive results.