Trying to avoid political rants on social media, or politics in general, is nearly impossible these days.
One option includes going on a “social media fast” for the next 10 months, until after the general election in November. Or you can just accept the fact that your friends are going to occasionally post things you disagree with.
For some, election seasons are a true test of social media friendships. If you’re a Hillary Clinton supporter posting too many slams about other candidates, you’ll probably lose a friend or two.
If you’re like my Facebook friend who posted, “Keep posting negative stuff about Hillary, and I’m unfriending you. You’re clearly not my friend,” losing a few Facebook friends won’t keep you up at night.
But you don’t have to engage in politics on social media to enjoy the sideshow. In fact, you might learn something by snooping around.
How presidential candidates are using social media, how they connect with voters in different regions of the country, is fascinating to watch.
Following candidates on social media doesn’t mean you have to vote for or even endorse a particular candidate. Social media students will tell you that it’s important to see how other candidates are using social media.
In the lead-up to the Iowa caucuses, here’s a quick review of how some of the leading candidates are courting voters on social media.
Sanders on Snapchat
Sanders’ use of social media is an important part of his overall strategy for attracting young voters, so it should surprise no one to see his team using Snapchat.
For example, Iowa voters can add Sanders-themed overlays to the app. The campaign sends out video and picture Snaps of Sanders on the trail, and encourages users to share the Snaps with friends.
If you’re in Iowa, or can access the filters, check out the “Feel the Bern” tagline and filter with a cartoon overlay of Sanders.
Trump on Twitter
Love him or hate him (and if you’re on social media, it seems there’s no in-between), Trump has a powerful presence on Twitter. With more than 5.8 million followers, most of his “challenge” tweets (i.e., calling out other candidates, media outlets) get thousands of retweets and favorites. If you think Trump is brash in front of the camera, his tweets are equally aggressive.
We already know that Trump is unapologetically politically incorrect. One tweet to his followers last week read, “Being politically correct takes too much time. We have too much to get done!,” which garnered more than 3,000 retweets and favorites.
Of course, these aren’t the only candidates using social media in interesting ways.
Like Trump, Ted Cruz has an active Twitter following, and according to his campaign, he reads and directly responds to some tweets (most candidates leave that work to their social media teams).
Be sure to check out Clinton’s Instagram account, dominated with images of Clinton supporters.
If you have a favorite candidate using social media to connect with voters, share it with me on Twitter at @adamearn or in the comments section of this post.
Dr. Adam C. Earnheardt is associate professor and chair of the department of communication at Youngstown State University in Youngstown, OH, USA. He researches and writes about social media and technology, sports and fans.