One of the most remarkable aspects of the 2008 presidential election was watching Barack Obama harness the power of social media to become the Democratic presidential candidate. He received the highest number of votes in U.S. electoral history. Eight years later, the leading candidates from both parties have increased voter outreach by making platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram a cornerstone of their campaigns. Here are a few reasons why social media will play an important role in the 2016 presidential campaign, as well as some important lessons entrepreneurs can take from the current election cycle.


It’s immediate


Social media is equally appealing to vain teenagers, presidential candidates and smart business leaders everywhere because it allows for direct and immediate interaction with an audience of millions. Instead of having to wait days or hours to refute a charge or capitalize on a gaffe made by an opponent during a debate, a modern candidate can post a concise, clever and eminently shareable rebuttal before the next commercial break. The value of being able to change the narrative on a national level almost instantaneously cannot be overstated.


It’s authentic


Authenticity, or more accurately the appearance of authenticity, is a big deal in national politics. Social media platforms are very effective in lending promotional materials a handmade, unpolished quality that suggests authenticity and transparency. You may not agree with a politician’s stance on certain issues, but most people can sympathize with being forced to subsist on greasy airport food. Obviously, awkwardly framed Instagram videos aren’t as meaningful as policy positions, but the perception of empathy was a big factor in the outcome of the 2012 presidential election, according to the Huffington Post. And as Millennial Marketing points out, since authenticity-loving millennials are now the most populous generation in the Unite States, brand credibility will only become more important going forward.


It’s cost effective


Heavily trafficked social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Snapchat have one significant advantage over older mass media channels — their advertising rates are much cheaper. Whereas TV political ads are expensive, imprecise and arguably ineffective, social media advertising can be purchased for pennies on the dollar, is highly targeted and can deliver meaningful and measurable results, especially among advertising adverse millennials. As an example of just how cost effective social media advertising really is, consider the fact that Donald Trump leads the field of GOP presidential candidates by a double-digit margin despite spending 79 percent less on his campaign than his closest rival, according to the Federal Election Commission.


This article was written by Mario McKellop for Small Business Pulse


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