Social media became an even bigger influence on the 2012 presidential election.
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Check Twitter statistics and you'll see that in 2008, it had about 6 million users. By 2011, that number had exploded to an estimated 100 million people. If 2008 was remembered for Facebook, Twitter made its power known in this election year.
For people working in traditional news media, like TV, radio and newspapers, the key point to remember is that candidates and voters increasingly have new ways to communicate that don't involve the 6 o'clock news or the front page of the paper. We've already seen candidates ignoring mainstream media, especially those who accuse it of alleged liberal media bias, in order to have an unfiltered conversation with the people of America.
Those working in TV, radio or print should remind candidates and their campaigns that while social media outlets have their place in politics, an interview on the CBS newsmagazine 60 Minutes is worth an infinite number of tweets. The tough questions a candidate would likely be asked are good preparation for the presidential debates.
Voters, too, should realize the limitations of social media. A candidate's Facebook page or Twitter feed will make her look like the savior of the country, if only you can elect her into office. All candidates need to face the pressures of being asked tough questions and of having their political records examined.
By 2016, Facebook and Twitter will surely be joined by the next wildly-popular social media tool. But you don't have to wait until then to develop a social media policy. Your goals may even lead you toward working with a social media specialist or hiring a social media specialist. After all, social media isn't just a political tool for you to use during campaign season. It can prove its value anytime there's breaking news to report.