Thursday, September 22, 2016

What Happens on TV Stays on Social Media

By Tyler Prich

There is an electric air of anticipation for this year's presidential debates - the number of viewers has been increasing since Kennedy, and this one is expected to break records. Maybe it's because there's an element of drama and unpredictability with these candidates, or maybe the public is just more interested in politics; whatever the case may be, there will be millions of other debates happening simultaneously on social media.

A Historic Shift

Social media will be playing an unprecedented role in who "wins" this years debates. Four years ago the Romney-Obama debates saw 11.1 million comments on social media - numbers only surpassed by prime time events such as the Grammy's and the Super Bowl. The comments were analyzed and overwhelmingly picked Romney as the winner, even though he didn't do as well in the general election.

Clinton and Trump will face off for the first time on September 26.
This time around, social media has continued it's exponential growth. Those comments should be expected to increase even more with the amount of social networks involved - such as Snapchat offering viewers an inside look to each debate. This election cycle has already seen an unprecedented an unprecedented amount of campaigning on social media, but how exactly will that impact be felt during the debate?

What to Expect

Traditional media has become infamous for playing out-of-context soundbites that the talking heads will analyze and dissect weeks after the event; however, we see this even more in digital social media. Nowadays, it's so easy to take a clip of either a shining moment of a candidate, or a huge slip-up, and post it - allowing for commentary to go on until election day. For some people, this will be their only coverage of the debate, seeing the boiled-down "highlights" which present a skewed view of a several hour affair.

For the first time ever, social media is being used to influence the conversation that the candidates will have on stage. Companies like Facebook and Google will be providing analytics information to the moderators on what issues the public is talking about. Facebook is also acting as the "exclusive media sponsor" for the event, and will create interest in the event by using Facebook Live to stream some off-camera footage of the debate. The second debate will also be the first time ever that social media will be used to gather questions from users to ask a candidate during the general debates; it's been used before in primaries.

Gag Order?

So since social media is going to play such a massive role in these debates, what have the candidates had to say about the upcoming debates? Very little actually. While many users are voicing their opinions on some vague topics of discussion in preparation for the debate, the candidates have remained largely silent on the upcoming debate.

We can assume that Hillary is already preparing her very strategic approach to the debate, and Trump must be doing some sort of preparation. What we don't know is will the campaigns utilize their own social media accounts during the debate. We've seen from Clinton and Trump that this campaign takes place live at all times, and the debate will serve as a second medium for the candidates to get their point across and continue the conversation.

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