What to expect from social media in elections? – 09/23/2022 – Vote by Vote

For some time now, social networks have been perceived as an important instrument for converting votes in electoral campaigns. The first was that of Barack Obama, in 2008, when the networks still had limited reach.

There were times when the networks were understood as preponderant, such as the election of Trump, in 2016, or the plebiscite of Brexit, in 2014. In Brazil, the 2014 elections already showed the importance of the digital debate, but it was in the election of Jair Bolsonaro, in 2018, that social networks gained the status of “decisive”.

Much has been said about the use of WhatsApp and the online mobilization achieved by the captain’s campaign and that these would have been the factors that led him to victory, even with little money and reduced TV time. However, one cannot ignore the considerable increase in exposure time in the mainstream media due to the stab it took.

During his entire term, President Bolsonaro did not leave the “campaign” mode and privileged social networks to communicate. The government “narrative”, an expression dear to Bolsonaristas, used an anti-system line, attacking the press and institutions, such as the National Congress and the STF.

This “narrative” has often been picturesque, especially at the time of the pandemic, when Bolsonaro defended the use of ineffective drugs and questioned vaccines developed to combat the virus, in line with the views of the global far-right.

But would all this “parallel communication” privileging a reality that only exists on Bolsonar social networks be enough to guarantee reelection? Apparently, even though the online world may have been responsible for keeping the Bolsonarista group together and capable of defending questionable government attitudes, judging by opinion polls, the real world seems to impose itself. The economic difficulties, mainly of the poorest population, give stronger arguments for the preponderance of the change vote.

Observing the behavior of the digital debate during this campaign period, especially Twitter, it is noted that the moments with greater attention from users on the four presidential candidates ahead of the polls coincide with events that occurred outside the networks. The series of interviews with Jornal Nacional, the Band debate and the September 7 commemorations record the peak of mentions of them in these 36 days of campaign. This reinforces the “multiplatform” character of modern electoral communication.

In addition, even though the opposition does not have the same digital resourcefulness, either due to lack of knowledge or the disarticulation of the main influencer profiles, changes in the way networks began to distribute content seem to be balancing the game and reducing Bolsonarista supremacy.

The content of interest (“interest graph”) produced in a pulverized way by influencers (including profiles outside politics) now appear repeatedly in the timelines of the networks, as a result of the success of the TikTok algorithm, which inspired changes in other networks. through content delivered on Reels (Facebook and Instagram) and Shorts (Youtube).

No electoral resource is sufficient on its own. Social networks have limitations, whether due to the profile of the users or even the algorithms responsible for delivering the content, and it is necessary to understand it as part of the gear that makes up a political campaign. The digital debate dialogues with the candidates’ agenda, who go through TV or street events. The campaign that best combines your resources is the one most likely to succeed.

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