In previous posts I outlined the details of a preliminary study we conducted on how social media are used as political tools and how this activity is portrayed in traditional media outlets. I provide an overview of the study and insights into the way in which newspaper articles compare and contrast new and traditional media as political tools here, as well as an analysis of different user groups (politicians, journalists and the general public) of social media for political purposes and how traditional news media report on this activity here. In this post, I want to take a closer look at some preliminary insights into what the newspaper articles we analysed had to say about the different uses of social media in politics.

How/Why/For what are social media used in politics?

Most of the articles that mentioned user groups also gave an indication of why and for what these tools were used. In total, 30 out of the 56 articles we analysed discussed different uses of social media as political tools. This makes it the most discussed topic out of all of the categories we identified in our analysis. The chart below provides an overview of the 13 types of uses the articles we studied mentioned and the number of articles that cited these uses.

Using social media as a tool for interaction or online debate, as a means for politicians to create personal connections with voters, to create a personable image and to reach voters were the most commonly mentioned uses of social media in politics. It is noteworthy that all of these uses refer to how politicians use social media tools, not the public or journalists. This is in line with our previous finding that most of the articles that looked at user groups referred to politicians. Another well-represented reason why people use social media as political tools was to cut out the traditional media as a mediator between politicians and the public. The fact that this is a desirable quality of social media is revealing, in light of our interest in understanding how social media and traditional media interact. It seems that both politicians and the public see merit in a use of social media that sets them apart from traditional journalistic formats as mediators of political messages. It would be interesting to utilise sentiment analysis to tease out how newspapers react to and portray this kind of information that puts in question their authority as transmitters of political news and mediators between politicians and the public.

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