Campaigns Try Technology to Reach Voters


When Mayor Stephanie Miner’s political campaign wanted to engage with supporters online, her staff posted a virtual birthday card for her on her Facebook page.

“We encouraged people to sign it, include a person message and share it,” said Kyle Madden, her campaign manager.

This is a classic example of how campaigns are trying to connect with voters using technology, say political experts.

Through trial and error, campaigns are building a network of followers online. They’re using Twitter to reach the news media. They’re hoping that, on social media, one supporter will influence another in cyberspace. They’re trying to make new connections. Their goal, say political experts, is to help the campaign get three essentials: voters, funds and visibility.

But technology can also be time-consuming, say campaign veterans. “You have to be careful what you post, and that takes a lot of time,” said Tiffany Latino, communications director for state Sen. John DeFrancisco, R-Syracuse. A spelling error, incorrect information or any other miscommunication does not make the senator look credible, she said.

The Internet can make it easier for people to participate in democracy, say some technology experts.

One innovative way some candidates are using technology is what technology researchers call the “two-step flow of communication.” Most adults form their opinions under the influence of someone else they think highly of, according to that theory. One opinion leader can shape another into a supporter of his or her opinion through the right medium.

Twitter, for example, is a platform candidates use to reach political insiders. “Candidates know most of Twitter is made up of reporters and the news media,” said Jennifer Stromer-Galley, technology researcher at the iSchool of Syracuse University and author of “Presidential Campaigning in the Internet Age. “ She added, “That’s why they use it.”

On Twitter and other social-media platforms, staffs employ different communication methods. Some post as if they are the candidate, sharing feelings in first person. Others post as the candidate’s team like Mayor Miner’s did by posting the virtual card for supporters to share and sign. Some may even start a dialogue, creating bulletin posts and posing discussion questions — all methods in hopes to reach a larger audience.

“What’s cool is innovation is much more possible at the local level in democracy,” said Stromer-Galley. “There’s no clear path what local candidates will do next.”

Political experts say technology can be helpful to voters. To give them an opportunity online to engage with someone they support,” said Madden, the mayor’s former campaign manager, “that gives them an added sense of security and involvement.”

(Hannah McDonald is a senior majoring in broadcast and digital journalism with a minor in economics.)



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