Social media will play key role in selling the political message

World of Politics with Harry McGee

I was giving career advice to students in a secondary school recently. The first thing that surprised me was the level of interest in a career in the media which was much higher, given the very uncertain nature of our profession. The second was when I asked them how they got the news. Of course, I wasn’t naive enough to think that any 16- or 17-year-old was going to say newspapers. But I did expect to hear them refer to websites like RTÉ or some of the nationals, or, at least, to their apps.

Not a chance; not even Facebook – or Twitter. They were for old people, like their parents. Not for them.

It was mostly TikTok and, to a lesser extent, Instagram, which they also consider to be an older person’s medium.

Pinterest anyone? Tumblr? AskJeeves anyone? As I received that information, I knew what it felt like for those who established My Space – forgotten, ghosted, disappeared.

I have not done any empirical studies on this but as you go up the age groups, you will find that Twitter and Facebook have more traction for those from 30 up to 60.

Above that age group, social media has made fair inroads, reducing even more the number of people who continue to spread the national, or provincial, paper across the kitchen table to find out what’s happening with the world.

The relationship between politicians and social media in Ireland is a tricky one.

I think the first person I remember embarking on a social media campaign was the Labour politician Dominic Hannigan, who had a blog on (remember that?) and also made a number of campaign videos. That was back in 2007, the same year that Apple’s first ever iPhone was released (it hadn’t even come to Ireland then). Hannigan’s efforts got him a few hundred views at most and made no difference to his campaign (he did not get elected).

However, given the torrential speed at which technology arrives and departs, Twitter was a thing within the next year. By 2008 it was up and running as was Facebook. Suddenly, at least some of the public discourse migrated online.

Pictured: Donald Trump…social media trendsetter.

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