Digital communications facilitate market research for politicians

NOVEMBER 11, 2011 – The presidential race is now in full swing, with candidates conducting market research through polls and social networking to figure out exactly what issues are most important to voters. The same is true in other parts of the world too, the BBC reports.

According to the news outlet, even Prime Minister David Cameron has joined the social media sphere, as he recently created a LinkedIn profile. It’s just the latest in a trend of politicians using every channel they can – Twitter, iPhone canvassing, sharing links and creating Facebook profiles – to connect with their constituents and, hopefully, gain an edge over their opponents, the source says.

The U.K. seems to be taking it a step further. The House of Commons recently approved a measure that will permit MPs to post tweets while in the Commons chamber, and the head of the Labour Party, Ed Miliband, has even hosted events on Twitter, allowing users to engage in live question-and-answer sessions.

Cameron is also adding a bit more transparency to his daily routines, and recently signed up for foursquare, which his administration told BBC is to “illustrate the events the prime minister participates in during his day-to-day duties beyond Downing Street.”

U.K. politicians are also employing social media to give citizens more of a voice. The Labour party has set up a “campaign engine room” that allows users to build their own campaigns and drum up support for their petitions, the source notes.

Stateside, politicians’ social media efforts have also become a tool for swaying voters, USA Today reports. In the 2008 race, then-candidate Barack Obama leveraged social networks in a way no other presidential hopeful had before, but today’s use of the technology makes that campaign look amateur by comparison, the source says.

Social media companies have been getting more involved by hosting town halls and debates between the candidates, which creates greater access for voters while also giving politicians greater insight into and solid metrics on citizens’ thought processes.

“The exposure – being branded as ‘the’ place to go for social media – has huge economic consequences for these companies,” said Heather LaMarre, a journalism professor at the University of Minnesota, in an interview with the newspaper. “When they appear to be socially active and engaged in democracy, they develop a vast well of good will with the political elites who have the ability to make or break them in the future.”