Social Networks and Political Campaigns. A Case from Romania30 agosto 2018 -
Contributo selezionato da Filodiritto tra quelli pubblicati nei Proceedings “International Conference on Economics and Administration 2017”
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Contribution selected by Filodiritto among those published in the Proceedings “International Conference on Economics and Administration 2017”
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3. Literature review
4. Objectives and methodology
6. Discussions and implications
More and more researchers focus on the role of social networks in election campaigns. In this paper, we take a look at the 2016 Romanian parliamentary elections, in order to analyse the online campaign on Facebook of one of the most popular Romanian parties, USR. With the help of content analysis, this study aims at shedding some light into the use of social networks in an emerging democracy like Romania. Using both a priori and emergent coding, we take a look at the content of the posts, the use of multimedia elements and the online reactions each post generated. Our findings indicate that USR’s online communication focuses on presenting its candidates, while properly integrating multimedia elements to reach to their voters.
For more than a decade now. the Internet has become a new source of information and expression, providing an inexpensive way to communicate worldwide. The surprising evolution of the internet caught the attention of political actors, who started to incorporate this new medium into their campaigns (Williams & Gulati, 2007; Wattal, Schuff, Mandviwalla, & Williams, 2010; Towner & Dulio, 2011). Although the information on the Internet is vast and sometimes hard to manage, the Internet is democratizing the political systems. Thus, the concept of mass communication has been changed and communication, in its true etymological meaning, is now possible (Williams & Gulati, 2007). Communication is now universal, omnipresent and free, although problems as lack of truthfulness, authenticity of sources, quality of content, intellectual property rights cannot be ignored. The use of social networks in the political sphere has its origin in the triumph of Barack Obama (Cogburn & Espinoza-Vasquez, 2011; Sweetser & Lariscy, 2008; Vaccari 2010; Woolley, Limperos, & Oliver, 2010). Obama’s campaign, based on online and viral marketing, was the first campaign in the history to segregate the social media department (also called technological) within the communication department, to make it a new, independent department (Robertson, Vatrapu, & Medina, 2010; Towner & Dulio, 2011).
In Romania, social networks started to be used in 2008, but it was not until 2012 elections that political actors integrated them properly in their communication strategy. The case of 2014 presidential elections, together with the 2016 parliamentary elections show that social networks (especially Facebook when it comes to Romania) are valuable means of interacting with the voters.
The paper aims at gaining insight into the 2016 parliamentary campaign, with focus on social media strategy. For this analysis, we selected the USR party (Union Save Romania), a recently created party, that shortly became one of the most popular parties on Facebook, and conducted a content analysis on the posts published on its official Facebook page during the electoral campaign.
The paper is structured as follows: the next section provides a literature review on the use of social networks in political campaign; section 2 presents the objectives and methodology; in the third section, we discuss the findings; section 4 invites to discussions and gives an outlook for future research.
3. Literature review
Within this universe called “Web 2.0”, social networks are one of the tools where the user is the real protagonist (Carlisle & Patton, 2013; Towner & Dulio, 2012). The easy access, the immediacy and the universality of its reach have made the Internet the most powerful tool of transmitting ideas of all time (Towner & Dulio, 2011; Wattal, Schuff, Mandviwalla, & Williams, 2010).
Although it is true that today social networks are indispensable in elections, it is also true that they do not replace territorial campaigns, personal direct contact and the massive well known conventional mass media (Pedersen, 2012; LaMarre & Suzuki-Lambrecht, 2013). Even in the 2008 Obama campaign, considered paradigmatic for its use of social networks, Obama spent 16 million dollars on online advertising, and 250 million dollars on television ads (Smith, 2012; Hoffman, 2012). In 2012, he tripled the budget for online advertising at 51 million dollars and almost doubled the budget for television ads: 450 million dollars (Smith, 2012; Hoffman, 2012).
According to Brants & Katrin (2011), digital media have been incorporated as tools of political communication for three main reasons. The first one is speed, since any political message can be uploaded from anywhere in the world and almost instantaneously downloaded anywhere else without delay. The second reason is versatility, because digital media support texts on websites and blogs, public and private messages, photos and videos. Finally, ease of use is the third reason: political communication is no longer just top-down, from parties or media channels to citizens, but also horizontal and bottom-up, since any digitally connected person, with the simplest smartphone, can become a communication channel (Utz, 2009; Ward & Janelle, 2010; Schmitt-Beck & Mackenrodt, 2010; Pedersen, 2012; Mascheroni & Mattoni, 2013).
Also, networks are excellent tools to respond quickly to attacks made by opponents and to influence the agenda of conventional media. In fact, newspapers, in their online version, use tweets or posts of politicians to reach a wider audience. Nonetheless, social platforms also enhance the risk in communication, as well as error (Wattal, Schuff, Mandviwalla Williams, 2010; Bode, 2012; Carlisle and Patton, 2013).
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