Social Media Warfare in the Political Electoral Process

The political electoral process is tumultuous in many countries around the world; it is sometimes characterized by violence and is most often laden with ideological conflict and divisiveness. The 2016 presidential election in the United States along with congressional, senatorial, and state-level races were no except to this long pattern of ideological conflict and divisiveness. Although social media warfare tactics have played a part in previous elections, especially during the Barack Obama campaigns of 2008 and 2012, social media warfare tactics took the main stage during the 2016 campaigns and elections. In will take several election cycles before it can be determined if social media helps or hurts candidates for public office. This chapter examines the role of social media warfare tactics and their use in the political electoral process in 2016 in the United States.

Media Convergence Comes of Age

Media convergence, or the melding of different media types into a multi-faceted stream of information and entertainment, has been a trend for over two decades. Video, text, photos, sound, and graphics were at one time all delivered from separate platforms and applications. Social media applications have led the way in enabling users to blend all these media types into a customizable stream that blends desirable media elements into a personalized content stream.

As events in the 2016 election progressed, so did the blending of media types. A post on a social media site could include news from broadcast television, print media, and graphic images from multiple sources. Users could post and share content from other media sources. Digital news applications could also blend such content as well as social media posts. News articles hosted on digital platforms began using social media posts as content, just as social media posts were blending in content from other media sources.

Sometimes, social media posts were about news or content from other sources. News sources started including social media posts as part of their stories and would often include several posts from different users as part of the news content. Old media relations formulas for dealing with print media or broadcast media are becoming obsolete. Media relations professionals are confronted with new ways to control media content and a more complex set of relationships to achieve media coverage for their clients. It has certainly made things more interesting and, after the elections of 2016 in the United States, the use of media platforms and how to penetrate news content with a desired perspective is forever changed.

It sounds simple, but all media and all news coverage seekers now face having to understand multiple channels into public exposure. This trend will also impact how social media warfare strategies will be deployed in the future as well as the success of any and all media campaigns.

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