The New Social Media Influence in the 2020 Presidential Election

Joy: I’m not an expert in elections or social media (unless having a Twitter habit counts). I asked Kate Zickel who manages political online accounts professionally to write about the current election:

It’s no secret that social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter have had a tremendous influence on political elections in America since their infancy in the mid 2000’s. While the exact impression of these platforms can be difficult to measure, it’s clear that their impact in 2020 is greater by far than in previous election cycles.

Data from SocialBankers reports that “While President Donald Trump’s use of Twitter has been widely acknowledged, and certainly had a tremendous impact on the outcome of the 2016 elections, former Vice President Joe Biden has actually surpassed the President in many key engagement metrics.” This includes the nearly 30 million American voters that comprise the largest percentage of Twitter’s user base at nearly 20%.

The New York Times’ Ben Smith recently explained how media and tech companies have evolved back into their roles as information gatekeepers leading up from the 2016 election. Twitter, for one, recently began pinning notices to the top of all U.S. Twitter users’ timelines warning about misinformation on mail-in voting while Google said it’s been pushing to make its core search products including YouTube into hubs for authoritative information about electoral processes and results.

Pre-bunking is yet another new election influencing tactic used by many news and information sources to prevent the spread of false information before it starts… at least that’s the idea.

There is, however, a direct inverse relationship between broadcast ad spends and digital ad spend since the 2018 midterms. For the first time ever, spending on digital political advertising has slightly surpassed cable. Still, advertising spent on broadcast television — mostly at the local level — reigns supreme.

And while the influence of social media at the polls isn’t exactly new, the 2020 presidential election has set a new precedent in this era of information gatekeeping.

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