Digital Media and Campaigns
Many candidates for elective office use social media to connect with voters along the campaign trail. This exercise, which may be done in class in an hour, will allow students to analyze and compare candidates’ use of social media at national, state, and local levels, and discuss their role in the electoral process.
1. Ask students:
- How many of you use websites or social media to find information
- What makes them so useful?
- What do you think about political candidates using these sites to reach voters?
2. Instruct small groups of students to view the websites of: (1) one candidate running for president of the United States, (2) one candidate running for U.S. Congress from your state, and (3) one candidate running for a local office. Students should try to answer the following questions:
- What are some of the features of the candidates’ website? Do you see references to social media?
- Do the candidates share photos, videos, or other interactive content?
- What kind of information do the candidates share? For example, do you see proposals, policies, opportunities for meetings, requests for contributions or campaign volunteers, or biographical information?
- Do you feel like you learn more about the candidates through their websites or use of social media?
- Overall, how effectively do you think the candidates use their website or social media? Do you see any opportunities for more effective use?
- How many opportunities are there to contact the candidates? Are these adequate? Can you think of other ways that you might contact the candidates?
3. Ask students to compare the presidential candidate’s website to that of the down-ballot candidates. Students should try to answer the following questions:
- How are the three websites similar? different?
- Which sites provide the most relevant information?
- Which candidate’s website or use of social media do you think is most effective for reaching voters? Why?
4. Allow each of the small groups to present their findings to the rest of the class. Wrap up by asking each group to develop a digital media strategy for a hypothetical political campaign that outlines what might go on the website, social media platforms the campaign will target, and best practices for use.