The campaign trail is a breeding ground for political disasters. Candidates dig up dirt on one another, skeletons come out of closets and dirty laundry gets aired. Although the advancement of social media has certainly harmed some candidates and politicians, it can also make a positive impact.
Similar to businesses that use social media to maintain or repair their reputation, politicians, candidates and political parties can also use social media to build a favorable image and sidestep potential career-damaging disasters. Even though there are plenty of people out there eager to help gossip and negative stories go viral, the accessibility of information on various social media platforms presents a fair opportunity for reputations to be saved and careers to blossom. These stories outline how social media can be beneficial in putting a stop to political disasters.
Hurricane Katrina. When Hurricane Katrina struck the coast of Louisiana on August 29th, 2005, no one was prepared for its magnitude, despite forewarnings. In the aftermath, disaster continued as Louisiana parish mayors, the state governor and even President Bush looked at one another in bewilderment, wondering what to do and who was going to do it.
According to the National Housing Institute, Hurricane Katrina resulted in one of the biggest political disasters in recent history. As indifference and incompetence mounted, New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin invested countless hours and days in reaching out to the people and media forms such as video, television appearances and radio interviews to help rebuild the spirit and pride of New Orleans’ citizens, even if the town continued to lay in ruins.
Tahoku Kanto Japan Earthquake. The 9.0 magnitude earthquake hit Japan during the middle of the work day, when people were going about their business like it was just another day. Once tremors subsided, chaos ensued and people began to worry about loved ones and coworkers who were missing, according to University of British Columbia’s Journalism News Service. Local Japanese governments attempted to create order out of chaos. As they did, inhabitants of Sendei and surrounding areas used Twitter and Facebook to spread the news about grids they’d created on Google Maps to help find missing persons and document their names as they were found. Stories of these people and the use of social media often helped Japanese government sidestep bad press, even when it was deserved.
A President’s Tweet. Future generations will have more power than ever to contribute to the success or demise of the politicians who represent them. According to New Scientist, data models and savvy social media usage help candidates get their messages out to their intended audience. Although it might not be considered a worldwide or even nationwide disaster, Barack Obama’s run for president may have ended in disaster had it not been for his campaign’s wise use of social media. The presidential candidate knew he needed the vote of younger generations and his camp knew how to get it. Upon being elected, the president tweeted, “We just made history.”
Social media is still in the infancy stage, with many years of growth and development ahead. Those who use it carelessly or not at all are left trying to clean up fast-spreading disasters with old and clunky traditional methods. Smart use of social media will require a complete blueprint to act on, spread and react to important messages around the world instantly 7×24. They must also clean up potential political disasters before they get too messy and make a presidential candidate seem more accessible to those who are voting for the first time as well as those who have voted for a lifetime.