Politics as Unusual: How Social Media is Humanizing Politicians

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is making a comeback! The First-Lady-turned-world-leader went viral a few weeks ago when two of her fans, Adam Smith and Stacy Lambe, created a Tumblr account called “Texts from Hillary.” Modeled after what the secretary might say in text messages to other politicians, the Tumblr account shows photos of the secretary of state wearing giant sunglasses, checking her BlackBerry and looking as if she’s ready to ice somebody with her glare. The meme was an instant hit; making headlines and earning the creators a trip to the White House to meet the secretary.

As a political nerd and PR practitioner, I was excited to see a politician join forces with the social media world! While “Texts from Hillary” was created by two loyal fans, most politicians’ social media accounts are run by their campaign team. Before you roll your eyes and call it another outlet for politicians to offer empty promises, consider this: politicians are viewed by the public as elitist and out-of-touch with Americans, and social media offers them a way to change this image. Social sites are popular outlets that the public uses to voice their opinions and engage with their friends. It’s also become a place where brands share their messaging and build relationships with fans. So politicians finally borrowed a page from brands’ social media playbooks and sought to engage with voters in the same way.

In an age when persuading voters to vote is difficult enough, this new approach to social media is giving politicians the much-needed “cool factor.” Plus, it’s humanizing some of the world’s most exclusive leaders and thinkers. In fact, the secretary of state isn’t the only one who is benefitting from her recent social media popularity. The Washington Post published a story about Senator Paul Ryan’s presence on Tumblr. His Tumblr, conveniently called, “Hey Girl It’s Paul Ryan” is modeled after the famous fan-run Ryan Gosling Tumblr account, “Hey Girl.” His site, which is run by his campaign team, tackles “the issues” using memes, creative photos and witty lines.

From Tumblr to Pinterest, political leaders are changing politics as we know it by capitalizing on social media’s popularity. For example, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s wife, Ann Romney began using Pinterest a few months ago to share personal photos of her family and special memories from the campaign trail. First Lady Michelle Obama pulled a similar move when she joined Twitter earlier this year. Both women have the right approach to social media. Although they have a team who manages their accounts, both engage with voters on a frequent basis, often signing their original content with their initials.

For those who are still skeptical about politicians and social media, I offer one final point. There’s an old saying that voters vote for the candidate they are most likely to have a beer with. While you may not want to have a beer with Michelle Obama or Ann Romney, I bet either you or the leading lady in your life would be elated if she had the opportunity to gab with one of the politician’s wives over a cup of coffee and a slice of homemade apple pie (what’s more American than that?!). At the end of the day, social media is providing the public a medium for which to engage with politicians. Voters sense the “let’s grab a beer” intimacy with politicians who have a strong presence on social media.

So next time you’re online surfing one of the many social media sites take a look at some of the politicians’ pages. They, just like brands, figured that social media is an incremental part of their marketing strategy. After all, when word-of-mouth is the biggest endorsement any candidate could receive; social media is one party they can’t afford to miss.

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One thought on “Politics as Unusual: How Social Media is Humanizing Politicians

  1. Pingback: An Inside Look at Ethics: Where the PR, Ad and Marketing Industries Stand | The M/C/C Minute

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