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Political Frontier: When Politics Meets Technology
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Politics Meets Technology

Facebook in โ€˜Electionโ€™ Deeds

Winnie Marcel, a Liberal Arts student living in New York finds her Facebook feed highly appealing nowadays. Thanks to presidential campaigns. She says, amid family pictures, it is quite refreshing to watch a menacing video clip of Trump talking about โ€œHow his view are different than if he lived in Iowaโ€. From Cruzโ€™s social media savvy team, a sponsored ad pops up โ€˜LIKE ON ABORTIONโ€™. She wonders how by paying Facebook, this campaign managed to differentiate between โ€œOURSโ€ and Donald Trumpโ€™s โ€œNew York Valuesโ€. This is the brilliant example of an instance when politics meets technology.

Mark Zuckerberg happens to be quite excited about the target marketing, although he does not let individual candidates tracked by presidential candidates, but surely he does allow election campaigns 2016 to upload their voter files and vast email lists, which consists of real names, phone numbers, political habits, and home addresses of the advertising network of Facebook. Zuckerbergโ€™s team will then verify Facebook accounts of real-life voters.

The data is highly encrypted and Facebook holds no power once the ad starts streaming. A massive data broker, Acxiom based in Arkansas, helps election campaigns uphold the information of voters. Texas senator stands a level higher as he has been using Zuckerbergโ€™ social media companyโ€™s ad services to raise finance, among other things. As the first vote is arriving closer, donors affiliated with Cruz are spending US $10,000 per day on ad services offered by Facebook.

Mitt Romney, Barack Obama, and current campaign advisors to former digital gurus and political scientists agree advertising on Facebook is perhaps the best way to spend financial resources on what could be an approx US $10 billion election. 2016 has turned into the time when ultra-genus Facebook learned profit making strategies from how we vote.

The top digital strategist from 2012 campaign of Romney, Zac Moffatt, whose firm has collaborated with most of the Republican National Committee and the Republican presidential candidates during current election cycle says, โ€œFacebook is the most effective and easiest platform, the platform rests on a huge worth than what it was 8 years ago.โ€

The endeavor of Facebook profiles transformed into campaign currency indicates a major blow where Americaโ€™s political system is getting highly influenced by Silicon Valley. In recent years, Zuckerberg-led enterprise has elevated its Washington-based lobbying efforts to patent policy, surveillance, and press immigration, while increasing the size of its political size twice, and adding various features to turn it easier for election campaigns to reach certain voting groups on Facebook in what Sheryl Sandburg, Facebook executive, dubs as โ€˜the new town hallโ€™.

Modeling Perspicacity, Making Millions

For the first time, almost every candidate for the US Presidential Election 2016 is flanked by digital platforms available across the global web, accepting support and unlimited donations from corporations and individuals. Here, the politics meets technology.

As Republicans employ heaps to catch up on the advantage of Democrat partiesโ€™ tech-driven campaigns, this time, Zuckerberg has unveiled yet another brand new feature in order to help campaigns aim politically active Facebook users, who might continuously post about latest insults of Trump or share Bernie Sanderโ€™s expanding poll leads.

For instance, when American real estate magnate, Donald Trump opted out of recent Republican debate for promoting Fox News' boycott, the digital team of Cruz deftly grabbed the opportunity transforming the issue in a quick meme titled as โ€˜Ducking Donaldโ€™. The meme instantly went viral and most significantly provided Cruzโ€™s team with fresh email lists, which in return could result in further donations and Facebook targeted advertisements.

Facebook is involved in election campaigns since 2008 to communicate with voters. It all started when the first bid of Barack Obama for US presidential elections used the Facebook platform to fetch supporters to compel their digital friends to aid the nouveau-riche senator. Facebook, in 2012, started co-sponsoring Republican primariesโ€™ presidential debates.

President Obama, when elected as the US President for two consecutive bids in 2008 and 2012, had 21M Twitter followers and 32M Facebook followers respectively, making him the first ever president to have taken into account the world of digital media.

Former deputy digital director for โ€˜Obama for Americaโ€™ 2012 campaign, Marie Danzig quotes, โ€œFacebook is playing a pivotal role in modeling the public perception of a presidential candidate unequivocally more so as compared to the past election campaigns.โ€

War on Facebook

When politics meets technology, the campaigners are bound to receive an unprecedented attention. The Cruz campaign in Iowa uses the social media giant to target voters based on a wide range of issues, for instance, immigration controls to specific niche cause like nullifying state laws against firework sales. His campaign has established a specifically targeted model for this group of voters, which remains relatively small. The model may be quite responsive to ads by Cruz against high the government, and in few cases is planning to walk out to search for them individually.

On the other hand, in various ways, Donald Trump, is hauling the baton from remarkably successful election campaign of Obama in 2008, which is famously referred to as the ultimate โ€˜Facebook Electionโ€™. The highly fruitful campaign witnessed Obama intelligently implement a strong digital team including Facebook co-founder, the 24-year-old Chris Hughes. Ever since, Obama has made quite handful digital appointments, which includes Pfeiffer, a former executive of Twitter Jason Goldman, and Matthew McGregor.

Donald Trump, for his part, apparently sends the bulk of his own tweets and posts, especially when his staff members have left for home in the evening.

McConney, the man behind the editing of a majority of videos explains, โ€œThe two most significant aspects of a personality on social media are to provide their followers what they want and to stay authentic.โ€

The Biggest Influencer

The US Presidential Election Campaigns 2016 has reportedly attracted the largest amount of financial resources and biggest political donation in the entire course of the US political history. Jeb Bush ranks first with the largest number of donors with 77% of total contributions. Marco Rubio occupies the second rank with 59%, closely followed by Ted Cruz with 58%. Hillary Clinton occupies 32% of political contributions, followed by Martin Oโ€™Malley with 17%, Ben Carson with 12%, Donald Trump with 2.9%, and Bernie Sanders with 0.1%.

Talking about donations, Bush occupies the highest concentration of donors with 58%, followed by Rubio with 47%, Cruz with 45%, Clinton with 28%, and Martin Oโ€™Malley with 4.3%. Sanderโ€™s presidential campaign occupies concentration by a handful of individual donation while Trump has to dig his own pockets in order to fund much of his campaign.

Marketing โ€˜Politicsโ€™

The aspect of politics meets technology is not only limited up to the aforementioned subjects. As for now, presidential candidates are targeting users via phone and email, Facebook being the primary tool. With the revenues of the US online expense for political campaigns expected to outstrip the mark of US $1 billion this year, digital expansion could stay within TVโ€™s 30% by 2020.

Chris Wilson, director of analytics and research of the Texas Senator, says mobile and email marketing has been found as a successful strategy for targeting voters as it spreads the message rapidly as compared to various other kinds of advertising. Politicians belonging to various levels are absolutely in love with taking benefit from this latest form of targeting.

โ€œA certain segment of the shift,โ€ says Marie Danzig, currently serving as the head of creative and digital, Blue State Digital, โ€œarrives from Facebook, the platform where politicians request for โ€˜Likesโ€™ and cranky relatives participate in a full-fledged debate on politics.โ€

In general, Americans are used to spending a large of amount of time on mobiles. Facebook, since the last US election, has started volunteering video ads on mobile. Last year, in the earnings call, executives of Zuckerbergโ€™s company mentioned- Americans spend 1 out of every 5 minutes for Facebook on smartphones.

Future of Politics

Census Departmentโ€™s survey states, in the US presidential election 2012, the percentage of voters between the ages of 45-64 were 63%, and for the voters of 65 and above age group, the percentage was 70%. The voters between 18-24 years of age group, by comparison, remained 38% only. Since the active user base on the monthly basis of Facebook has crossed 1.4 billion, it has become highly significant for the candidates to start campaigning over Facebook to drive the huge base of audience.

According to Borrell Associatesโ€™ research, political expenditure on digital advertising in 2016 is foreseen to outrun US $1 billion up from 2012โ€™s US $159M on the election. This fall, Citigroup analysts estimated total expenditure by campaigns during the election cycle 2016 to value almost US $607M, which brilliantly surpasses 2012โ€™s US $145M on the election. Furthermore, they expect Zuckerberg-led parent company to edge-out Sundar Pichai-controlled YouTube as the largest recipient of digital advertising spending.

The eyes of voters are progressively glued to social media platforms based on the smartphone, and very clearly Facebook receives profits from it. Candidates are well aware that social media footprints are important. More than half of political ad spending on online platforms this year is expected to direct toward social media.

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