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Horowitz: Social Media is Increasingly a Go To News Source

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

 

Rob Horowitz

More than 6-out-of-ten current Facebook and Twitter users get news about the world and current events from these platforms, according to a recent survey conducted by Pew Research Center in association with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. This marks a 20% increase in the past two years alone.  Further, this rise in the number of people who use these social media platforms as a news source is not limited to the young; it cuts across all age and demographic groups.

When one considers the broad reach of Facebook and Twitter, their growing importance as platforms for receiving and sharing news becomes apparent.  Nearly 6-in-10 Americans use Facebook, while about one-out-of-5 Americans are Twitter users. This broad market penetration is especially impressive in today’s fragmented, niche media and information system where a television shows can achieve a top rating by getting only one- in ten households to watch.
 
Facebook,--with 3 times as many users as Twitter and where information sharing about politics and government is more widespread--is most important for people seeking to amass support for a specific issue or to influence national and local political debates. As the survey report notes, “When it comes specifically to news and information about government and politics, Facebook users are more likely to post and respond to content, while Twitter users are more likely to follow news organizations.” About one-third of Facebook users (32%) say they post about government and politics on Facebook, and 28% comment on these types of posts” Additionally, Facebook users  are highly engaged with the site; 7-in-10 of them access it at least once a day and nearly half of users do so several times a day.

The value of Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms are enhanced by the fact that people give more credence to information that they receive from family and friends than they do to information gleaned from advertising or television news.  It gives so called ‘influentials or opinion leaders’-the one in ten of us-who tell the rest of us where to shop, what news stories to click on, and what candidates to support-a way to magnify their influence beyond their neighborhood or individual family.  In other words, it amplifies ‘old-fashioned word of mouth”—still the strongest persuasion tool around.

In the most recent Presidential election, more than 1-out-of-5 registered voters shared their choice for President on social media.  With the 2016 Presidential campaign already in high gear, I anticipate a substantial increase in this percentage with a larger slice of the electorate sharing their views about the issues and the candidates on social media   We are beginning to  approach the time when winning on social media through the deployment of opinion leaders is just a critical to a candidate’s success as winning the television wars. It would be hard for anyone watching the television coverage of this Presidential race so far to argue that’s a bad thing.

Rob Horowitz is a strategic and communications consultant who provides general consulting, public relations, direct mail services and polling for national and state issue organizations, various non-profits and elected officials and candidates. He is an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at the University of Rhode Island.

 

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