Horowitz: Social Media Continues Growth as a News Source
Tuesday, May 31, 2016
Facebook continues to play by far the most dominant role in social media over-all and in news dissemination, according to the new survey. More than 2-in-3 American adults use it and 2-in-3 of those users get news on it. That means more than 4-in-10 Americans get at least some of their news from Facebook. This compares to the about 1-in-10 Americans each who get at least some of their news from Twitter or YouTube.
In today’s niche media system, where the top rated television shows, such as NCIS and Modern Family, only garner audiences of little more than 1-in-10 households, the broad reach of Facebook is even more impressive. This explains the strong reaction of Conservatives to the charges by some former employees that Facebook’s trending news topics feed tilted liberal as well as Mark Zuckerberg’s active and apparently somewhat effective damage control efforts.
Facebook users are also more likely to share news items and comment on them than users of other platforms. In a 2015 national survey, about one-third of Facebook users (32%) said they posted about government and politics on Facebook, and 28% commented on these types of posts.
Over-all, more than 1-out-of-5 registered voters shared their choice for President on social media in 2012; this percentage will in all likelihood be even higher this time. It explains the importance that Presidential campaigns now place on social media. They know that not only do these platforms have broad reach; but that information shared on them, when it comes from family and friends is usually viewed as more credible than information received directly from television news or advertising.
Social media give the so-called ‘influentials or opinion leaders’--the one in ten of us-who tell the rest of us where to shop, what news stories to click on, and what candidates to support--a way to magnify their influence beyond their neighborhood or individual family. In other words, it amplifies “old-fashioned word of mouth”—still the strongest persuasion tool around. The smart presidential campaigns now put energy into locating these influencers and encouraging and facilitating their social media outreach.
President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign and Senator Ted Cruz’s 2016 Republican nomination campaign were particularly adept at getting their supporters to share positive news and voting information with their Facebook friends and across other social media platforms. This kind of granular online campaigning does not get the attention that Donald Trump’s tweets do—but at the end of the day there is arguably a bigger payoff in terms of votes.
Rob Horowitz is a strategic and communications consultant who provides general consulting, public relations, direct mail services and polling for national and state issue organizations, various non-profits and elected officials and candidates. He is an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at the University of Rhode Island
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