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Social Media Dominates Presidential Races

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The Presidential campaigns of 2016 have been dominated by the use of social media to convey messages and to lambast opponents.

Social media usage has not only increased but in this campaign, more and different audiences are being targeted.

In 2012, social media primarily was aimed at Millennials. However, in 2016, social media, generated by candidates, is being directed to all supporters, opponents, and the media alike.

Three noted experts on campaigns and social media gathered this week to talk with Spectrum about this phenomenon and the explosion of political social media in 2016.

Dr. Jerry Miller, a professor the School of Communication Studies at Ohio University, is an expert in candidate image creation. Dr. Karen Riggs is a professor in Media Arts and Studies at Ohio University and is the director of the Social Media Certificate Program. Dr. Laeeq Kahn teaches in the Media Arts and Studies Department but also heads The Social Media Analytics Research Team (SMART) Lab as part of the Scripps College of Communication at Ohio University.

All agree that the use of social media in 2016 has been integrated into the campaign strategies of both major party presidential candidates.
Its use has been more limited and controlled by the Hillary Clinton campaign. Fewer tweets have actually been generated by the candidate.

Donald Trump’s use of social media has been more personalized and more spontaneous by the candidate, according to our panel of experts. It also has been more targeted with attacks on opponents, critics and the news media.

The use of social media, especially by the Trump campaign, also has substituted for traditional television and print advertising. It has been a cheaper and more targeted way for him to communicate with supporters, according to our group of professors.

Although “best practices” on the use of social media in campaigning have not yet emerged, both candidates are openly experimenting with different approaches and with different targeted audiences.