Wichita State News

PODCAST: Social media becoming popular with political candidates

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

This WSU Newsline Podcast is available at


. See the transcript below:

You’re listening to the podcast edition of the Wichita State University audio newsline. Learn more about WSU — the home of Thinkers, Doers, Movers and Shockers — on the web at wichita.edu.

Lou Heldman
Lou Heldman
The tools and tactics of political campaigns have undergone many changes in the past 60 years. With the advent of the Internet and social media, candidates have found new ways to battle for the hearts and minds of voters. Lou Heldman, a communications strategist at Wichita State University and former publisher of The Wichita Eagle and Kansas.com, is among those observing the impact of social media on political campaigns.

Heldman: "Social media is playing an increasing role in political campaigns. The leading example was the Obama campaign in 2008, where he rallied a tremendous amount of support and raised tens of millions of dollars using social media.”

The importance of social media isn’t lost on candidates running for office in Kansas, as Heldman explains.

Heldman: "In Kansas, all of the leading candidates for U.S. Senate and for the Fourth District congressional seat are making extensive use of social media. Virtually every candidate has a Facebook account, a Twitter account and an account on YouTube.”

Heldman says one reason that political candidates like websites is because it allows them to control the message.

Heldman: "Candidates love Web-based channels because they can control the message. They can put out their schedules, fundraising appeals, press statements. All of the things that used to have to go through traditional media, they’re now distributing directly through the Web.”

There are a number of reasons why political candidates like Web-based media.

Heldman: "Quick response time and low cost are advantages of Web-based media. There’s none of the waiting for weeks for a television commercial to be scripted and shot. Instead, candidates can be on YouTube within minutes, using a low-cost video rig and their YouTube channel.”

But using social media in political campaigns isn’t without some challenges, according to Heldman.

Heldman: "One disadvantage of using the web versus traditional advertising channels is that you’re mostly reaching people who have agreed to follow you or friend you or like you, and not reaching the large number of undecided voters that you can reach with a spot on American Idol or other popular show.”

And fake sites can also be a problem for candidates.

"One disadvantage of social media is that it’s very easy to create fake sites. One of the candidates who’s in the Fourth District congressional race has more fake activity on Twitter than real activity, because people opposed to him have set up fake sites using his name.”

As important as social media has become, it’s a long way from being the most effective way for candidates to get their message out, according to Heldman.

Heldman: “For all the popularity of social media, broadcast advertising and direct mail, the old standbys of political campaigns are still far and away the dominant form of communication by candidates. Before the Fourth District congressional race is done, more than a million dollars will be spent on TV advertising, and that’s just the primary.”

Thanks, in part, to social media, no longer is campaigning done at specific places and times, but from anywhere and at anytime. The result of this new form of media in politics has already been felt, however it has yet to fully be applied. About one-third of Americans still do not use the Internet, and many of those who do are not members of these social media sites. Suffice it to say, the use of social media in political campaigns will continue to grow in significance in the years to come.

Thanks for listening. Until next time, this is Joe Kleinsasser for Wichita State University.

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Created on Tuesday, July 27, 2010; Last modified on Monday, August 02, 2010