The last time we saw a Presidential Election that did not feature an incumbent was 2008, where Barack Obama knocked off John McCain to win the Oval Office. Many called that election the “social media election:” Facebook and Twitter were still somewhat in their infancy, but the 2008 election revealed their potential power, both as a way for like-minded individuals to coordinate grassroots movements (like the immense push to get minorities to vote in Ohio) but also as a more effective and direct way for candidates to interact with potential voters to further sway them.
It’s eight years later now, and the power of social media is much more pronounced. Every single political candidate is very active on social media, to the point that we may now actually see the value of using social media platforms in campaigning begin to decrease due to saturation. But what will take its place? What will be the x-factor, the social media for the 2016 election? The answer is content marketing.
Each election cycle, voters have access to much more information than they did in the previous cycle. The Internet, like the universe, is
always expanding, and voters who wish to find it can access tons of information about the issues and the candidates in an election. As such, voters want to get interesting and engaging content containing what they deem to be valuable information from their candidates. It is highly possible that the candidate who is able to leverage this new means of communicating with voters the most effectively will be the candidate being sworn in to the Nation’s highest office in February of 2017.
It seems that candidates are already beginning to realize the value that valuable, issues and data driven content can have for their campaigns. For example, Republican candidate Jeb Bush has an entire section of his presidential campaign website devoted to the issues. His page on regulatory reform outlines his basic policy objectives and also comes complete with eye-grabbing and easy to understand infographics: one for example, compares the time taken for environmental reviews for highway projects between 1970 and today. The graphic uses bright contrasting colors and a large font to engage the viewer and also quickly and effectively get the message across. It is also interesting to note that the color scheme of all the graphics is based around red, the color generally associated with the Republican Party.
Candidates on both sides of the aisle are following this practice. Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders has largely campaigned around the issue of income and wealth inequality, so it should be of no surprise that his website devotes a lot of space to content pertaining to this issue on his campaign website. Just like Jeb Bush, Sanders’s website includes a wealth of graphics that display his take on the income gap in America. The graphics are laid out in a way that clearly gets Sanders’s points across. Again, the color scheme on Sanders’s page is blue-based, reinforcing Sanders’s connection to his “brand,” the Democratic Party.
Clearly, the 2016 presidential candidates are already recognizing the potential value they can gain by creating effective content to communicate their positions to voters. They key to winning this election may well come down to who can create the most engaging content and get it in front of the most eyes. Younger voters especially want as much information as possible that is still laid out in an engaging, easily digestible way. The candidate that can fulfill all these criteria will likely end up with a majority of younger voters, whom tend to get their political information from the Internet, which could very likely be enough to carry the election. It seems, then, that the legacy of the 2016 election will be that of content marketing.