Almost every young person has a Facebook account. Everyone watches YouTube. Everyone uses Google. These social media outlets are more than just fun ways to connect: they are actively involved in politics and encouraging young people to vote.
In the years since the 2008 presidential election, social media has skyrocketed and become involved in politics at a level that would have been unimaginable to networking companies four years ago.
In an effort to make voting go viral, all the most popular social media has become internally and externally involved in the coming election.
These social networking companies have been hosting presidential debates and political advertising; however, the most important thing they do may be providing an invaluable connection between the voters and the candidates. By doing this, the websides inspire voters – especially young voters – to be excited about the political process and to vote.
The mega-corporations like Google and Facebook say that their involvement in the presidential race is a civic engagement. They say that they hope to provide a forum for national political discussion and encourage people to vote.
University of Minnesota journalism professor Heather LaMarre, whose specialty is in politics and the internet, said, “When they appear to be socially active and engaged in democracy, they develop a vast well of good will with the political elites who have the power to make or break them in the future.”
Neither of the giants want to be viewed as biased; many of the people who work for these major companies were politicians in the past, and in an effort to be as nonpartisan as possible, all different political backgrounds are represented.
“Our products aren’t political,” said Google spokesperson Jake Parillo. “It’s about connecting voters to information.”
Google is the most-used search engine on the web, and after a few politicians used Google for campaign advertising to great success, political advertisement has skyrocketed.
The search engine has been cohosting primary debates in order to achieve a noticeable political presence. They cohosted a GOP debate with Fox News and are planning on cohosting another in Iowa.
Facebook has been doing much of the same thing. The largest social networking site on the web, Facebook wants to keep its face seen in politics. To boost its visibility, Facebook will be working with NBC and cohosting a Republican primary debate days before the first primary elections begin.
Famous for its groups, Facebook has recently created a Political Action Committee (PAC) to allow contributions to be made through Facebook to the candidates.
Facebook has hundreds of groups encouraging young people to vote. The management of the site is in favor of young people voting and wants to promote it however they can.
Last year Facebook management created the ‘I voted!’ button, which would show up as a point of pride on a user’s profile.
Twitter has also become a major player in politics, despite being almost nonexistent in 2008. The 140-character news source has taken off, being a quick and efficient way politicians can inform voters of what’s going on. Barack Obama has a Twitter, as do most of the presidential candidates and over half of Congress.
Its major purpose is to keep young people involved in and excited about the political process , but in order to promote voting, Twitter is displaying political advertising on its webpage for tduation of the campaign.
Of all the social networking sites, however, YouTube may be the one with the biggest impact of all, as it provides pro-voting companies an easy way to get their voices heard—literally.
In a competition organized through YouTube by companies such as Rock the Vote and Young Voters, hundreds of famous YouTube stars – including three from the Top Fifty list – created videos promoting youth voting that would be watched by hundreds of thousands of people. The person who created the best video that inspired the most people to vote would win $5000.
In an effort to make voting go viral, social networking companies have stepped up their involvement in national politics and the presidential race on an exponential level compared to 2008. The giants are using their social power to make their voices heard and to keep the political process alive.