The political campaign is a well-structured industry that has undergone great changes in the past years. While traditional campaign strategies like face-to-face meetings, trips across the country and distributing leaflets are still widely used, most politicians come across the reality when they need to digitise their campaign and increase the accessibility to their campaigning strategies. The conversion in the political campaigning industry was initiated by the latest advancements in the tech industry but the main catalyst of the processes became the recent pandemic and changes in everyday social reality.
In response to the global challenges like climate change and COVID-19 pandemic, the political figures were compelled to not only change the context and messages of their communication strategies but also the ways of how they talk to people and engage with them. Real-time and more unfiltered communication gained more importance and the politicians who pioneered in using new tools and mediums to engage with the citizens stood out among their opponents. Now politicians in their campaigning strategy are facing the new challenge to choose the most effective and impactful tools and practices of campaigning out of many options that can improve engagement and will let them win the elections. Radical transformation into the information ecosystem has changed the scale of the impact and the influence that strategic communication and campaigning may result. In July 2022, social media users reached 4.7 Billion and it is an increase of 5% compared to the previous year. World population’s 59% is active on some kind of social media and the number is expected to increase in upcoming years. Pandemic has a huge influence on the digital growth compared to the huge decline of traditional media consumption. Therefore, the campaign team will follow more on what kind of content is posted on each social media outlet to reach out to diverse voters and at the same time maintain an honest and persuasive image of the politician. There are some trends taht will be relevant in the upcoming year’s elections and candidates will not be able to be competitive without adopting them:
Influencers and celebrities will have a big share in the upcoming elections as their influence in the digital world increases and the younger generation describes them as a trusted source of the information. Due to their huge online audiences, influencers became digital opinion leaders as they are forming certain ideas and opinions within their communities. We have already witnessed influencer’s involvement in the 2020 US presidential election when Michael Bloomberg actively engaged in paid partnerships with social media.
The citizens nowadays are more focused on having their voice and concerns heard and therefore, in response to their needs, politicians started to use more personalised and private social platforms to give individual feedback to the citizens and hear their individual opinions. This strategy helps to switch to more evidence-based and data-driven public communication and gives the electorate the first-hand experience of participation. In the upcoming elections, the candidates will have to use Q&A tools more frequently, use live streaming on Facebook and Instagram, adopt chat boxes and virtual personal assistants as part of their microtargeting campaign and make sure to hear from as many constituents as possible. The success of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez says a lot about using social media and a more direct approach as a turning point in the campaign. She used live-streaming, played the video-game “Among Us” and meanwhile convinced thousands of people to vote and consequently becoming the youngest woman ever elected to Congress. As for now, she has the most Twitter followers (7.8 million) of any member of the house, 1.4 million followers on Facebook and 5.2 millon followers on Instagram.
They will make a comeback in the upcoming campaigning and are expected to be popular among the younger electoral sector. In Reuter’s 2022 Digital News Report, TikTok is named as the fastest growing network, reaching 40% of 18-24s even predicting that it will overtake other social media platforms such as Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook. The latter has experienced decline for the past few years giving TikTok a significant place in the news ecosystem. Main reason why it became so popular is the speed and the high level of engagement as the short visuals are easier to perceive and process for the larger audience. Instagram and Facebook also introduced Reels ads that reach a significantly greater number of users. For example, in July 2022 Facebook reported that Reels ads on the platform can reach 473.5 million users while Instagram Reels ads is capable of reaching 754.8 million users.
Podcasts have been a trend for a few years now but after the rise of Clubhouse, lots of other social media platforms created analogues to develop and enhance the trend of free-form, impromptu discussions and events. Big companies started to invest in content and bringing podcasts as a new way to access information, consequently creating the new trend in political election race.
Metaverse will fundamentally transform people’s social experiences and offer a completely new platform for political discourse and discussion. With the right tools and use, Metaverse has an opportunity to become an influential mechanism for political campaigning and even governing. Virtual reality will transform the process of communication within political campaigning and increase the participation of the masses without geographic boundaries. For now, it is innovative and immersive technology, but one thing is certain, metaverse and virtual reality will impact every upcoming election and the influence will increase steadily as it will offer the candidates to connect with voters and engage in new ways. Andrew Yang, a front-runner in the New York City Democratic mayoral race, pioneered in including metaverse in his political campaign and engaged new alternative electoral sectors throughout his race.
In the electoral race, it is important to know who your audience is and what their behavioural habits are. Those are the kind of data that is even used to predict the outcome of the elections. In the US, political campaigns use data on more than 200 million Americans to inform their strategies and tactics. Candidates have been using data-centric technologies and tools such as AI or programmatic advertising to better target their audience in a more result-oriented way. As we have seen from the 2016 US presidential elections and the scandal of Cambridge Analytica, there is a fine line between data-oriented campaigns and its ethical sides. Nonetheless, evidence based approach that follows the data privacy policies is a strategic and often successful approach to political campaigning.
Today’s leaders evolve in digital access while focusing on availability, equity and affordability. The advanced technologies push the candidates and government leaders to include them in their communication strategies but the competition of being digital-first doesn’t mean that it should be digital only. While using various advanced mediums and tools in campaigning and communicating with citizens, they should think about how information can be delivered offline or in-person. Meeting with the citizens and organising physical gatherings is as important as the digital campaign strategies but both, online and offline engagement should complement each other and increase effectiveness of using them simultaneously.