Recent polls suggest the popularity of Donald Trump’s campaign for presidency, as Trump has been receiving wide media coverage since his announcement. Though he may not be considered a “serious” candidate compared to other notable GOP rivals such as Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio, Trump’s sudden surge reveals how powerful social media can be in shaping both the image of the candidate and the views of users who are constantly exposed to it. Significant leads in early polls do not determine how successful a candidate may be in leading a country; much of the hype surrounding Trump may hinge on the curiosity as to how a celebrity figure will fare in the political arena. But the effectiveness of Trump’s presence in the media teaches us how much we are affected by engagement, irrespective of hidden intentions or political artificiality.
Considering the high degree of immersion in social media, it is easy for Trump to be in the minds of citizens on a daily basis. Trump makes smart use of Twitter, directly responding to people who are interested in what he’s going to say next. In the same vein, the lack of filter in Trump’s choice of words when discussing political issues makes him seem more authentic as a candidate: he says what he has to say, and he doesn’t have to hide behind outside interests. Some may characterize Trump as a tactical businessman who simply wants to disrupt the GOP, but the amount of support he is receiving through the polls implies that people are affected by his “realness” that other political candidates are not successful in selling. Trump starred in his own reality show, and this experience helps with Trump’s portrayed character on the media. He is proving that his marketing ploy works, even in a landscape imbued by a distinct decorum of political tradition.
Social media is an effective marketing tool, and it can work in politics where representatives who are seriously engaged with issues are preferred over the sensational ones. Politicians generally engage with the issues, Trump engages with the people. Like how Trump likes China very much, people like engagement. Media outlets are constantly looking for stories to write about Trump, or those involving him, and they are contributing to Trump’s increased exposure. Simply put, Trump sells. People are buying his campaign, and they are doing it because Trump inhabits the airwaves that people are in tune with frequently. In doing so, Trump posits one significant benefit to the people of the country, and possibly in other parts of the world: more people are becoming interested in politics.
The pervasiveness of social media requires its tactful use for successfully selling an idea or product. The current and forthcoming generation will adopt social media as a common communication tool, and the talk of the town being Trump is a testament to this truth. Does this mean that politicians have to engage more with the people on social media to have successful campaigns, or should they continue with the existing formulas? Must they show the public their “true” side on existing issues, or continue to play the political game of supporting the cause of the party? Would this mean the sacrifice of a leader-like image for sensational advertisement? One thing is for sure, social media is changing politics – it is becoming more about engaging with the people than representing them.
Leading is one thing, but winning is another. Trump is garnering a lot of attention, and this could eventually turn into votes. Those votes are not necessarily the votes that fully support Trump and his policies, but they are votes that indicate the approval of a potential candidate’s use of present mediums, and doing whatever it takes to win the people over, even if it is for the sake of winning them over.