Social media in elections – influencial on the use of social media in science communication?

The battle for the Danish voters has begun. On 15th September elections for the Danish Parliament takes place. Politicians, political experts, aggressive journalists etc. are therefore all over the place.

Yesterday, I watched a little bit of the debate between the political party leaders on the nationwide TV station TV2. In addition to the politicians’ usual speeches and debates, the TV audience could participate via Facebook. I am not sure how well it worked, but it was clear that TV2 felt very progressive and on the beat.

Prior to the announcement of the election day and now in the count down to 15 September there is a lot of hyping of social media. Experts figure on TV expressing their opinions on the role of social media in the election and references to Obama’s successful use of social media is not uncommon. Maybe it is because I am already election overloaded and therefore try to avoid too much exposure to it, that I still haven’t experienced myself how the politicians (or perhaps more rightly their media advisors) use social media. To me it still seems to be mostly a hyped thing.

Today, I did however come across a website that summarises the social web communication from the political parties. The website is useful to get a feel of how politicians make use of the social web media. All tweets from the nine political parties are available. Links to Facebook pages and YouTube videos and RSS feeds from the respective websites (no reference to Google+).

Since I am absolutely no expert on social web media and politics I shall not judge if Facebook, Twitter and YouTube will play a deciding role in this election. It is clear that there is a lemming effect which means that all political parties have to have a social media presence, since all the others have one too. But obvious is it that all journalists covering this election as part of their research and orientation strategy make use of Facebook statuses and tweets from the politicians and communicate that through the more traditional media platforms. In that way more people than those who actually follow the politicians on Twitter becomes exposed to their social media activity.

I wonder if science communication could learn something from all of this. Using social media is still far from the prioritized communication channel for Danish researchers and from my experience there is a lot of scepticism towards it. The scepticism will probably not become smaller with the current and massive exposure which the election gives to it, but it will, is my guess, contribute to making social web media a more integrated component of our communication lives. Not only in our private socializing but also in communication of what we do and believe – whether we are politicians, public health experts, medical researchers etc…

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