If the past nine years have given us something undeniable, it is the transition of politics into the realm of the Internet. Social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Reddit and Snapchat were key players in the latest US presidential elections. It’s no secret that serious funds are earmarked for digital campaigns. However, one platform really stands out – so let’s talk about how YouTube changed politics forever.
Fifteen years ago the very idea that social media would ever play an important part in political issues was laughable. Today, those who were laughing at the start of the new century have been utterly silenced by the sheer power of the biggest video platform in the world – YouTube.
How YouTube Became the Pioneer of Social Media Politics
It was the Obama-McCain Race in 2008 when YouTube first became the major battleground in the presidential elections. From that point on, there was no going back.
This was the first election where YouTube played an essential role in helping the presidential candidate Barack Obama reach his target audience and convince people to go out and vote. Back then nothing was sure. The president-elect used social networking sites to create a large online community in the hopes of inspiring offline support as well.
The Obama strategists uploaded videos to help connect their candidate to millions of Americans. By doing so, Obama became the poster child for successful social media politics. His team didn’t just create profiles on major social media platforms and expect them to take off. They fostered a sense of engagement, participation and purpose in the community. All of this could now be supported by the right social networking technologies.
Every single message Obama’s campaign put forward on social media held the goal of convincing people to vote. In doing this, he started a movement which helped people realize that politics is easily accessible from websites they use every single day. This changed the face of political campaigns forever. It also demonstrated the sheer power of social media and video in particular.
Today’s Political Campaigns on YouTube
Fast forward to 2016, and the last Trump-Clinton debate attracted an incredible 140 million viewers on YouTube, where it was live streamed. In comparison, TV viewers added up to 71.6 million across 13 networks. This clearly portrays the massive increase in election interest accomplished by YouTube videos. Now, election-related searches on the platform are up 547% compared to the 2012 presidential campaigns.
2016 will go down in history for being the campaign of video content. What makes YouTube unique is that it can provide filter-free content that is not distorted by the media. As people’s trust in media outlets diminishes, their belief in the truthfulness of YouTube videos increases.
After Obama introduced the world to YouTube campaigns, a staggering 7 out of 16 presidential candidates announced their candidacy with a video uploaded onto YouTube. Today, they all do. Because they don’t have another choice. If you’re not playing the social-political media game, you quickly become an outcast. One of the major advantages of social media for presidential candidates is that it allows them to be constantly present. If someone strays from YouTube or Twitter, they are be deemed invisible.
Key Factors in How YouTube Changed Politics Forever
The biggest reason behind YouTube’s allure for politicians it that the platform can bring engagement to their message. According to Borrell Associates, political candidates will allocate 9% of their media budget to digital and social media marketing. At over $1 billion, you better believe such a large sum of money means results!
Another factor for YouTube’s success is that it enables people to be authentic. Or at least seem like they are. It’s extremely hard to be genuine or persuasive in a direct advertisement or a photo. However, if you can record a live video where everyone can see your facial expressions, gestures and mannerisms, this will add credibility to your campaign.
People love transparency. There are more than willing to share it with their friends. Not to mention their Facebook connections, which are sometimes in the thousands.
Since on YouTube you only pay per view of your ad, the platform also prevails when it comes to cost effectiveness – and it definitely trumps television. More importantly, with TV usage in 2015 declining, 18-49 year olds have been spending more time on YouTube – which has seen a 44% increase according to Nielsen.
The Game Changing Effects of YouTube on Target Audience
The most interesting aspect of how YouTube changed politics forever is the target audience. With Millennials being the main audience on most social media platforms, most of the electoral candidates and their social media teams have been concentrating on winning Millennials’ affection – and votes.
Nevertheless, that’s not always an easy thing to do. Video is becoming a central part of political campaigns. It’s now extremely easy for a candidate to lose affection just as easily as he received it. One small misstep caught on video can lead to a massive scandal. And we all know those always go viral.
This is the reason why every candidate now has a dedicated digital team that spends a lot of time on controlling (or attempting to control) people’s online perception of their candidate.
It isn’t a question of whether a politician should use social media anymore. We know that YouTube changed politics forever. It’s now a question of how they can use it most effectively.
What’s the most innovative political social media campaign you’ve ever seen? Let us know in the comments!