Social Media and Democracy

pexels-photo-607812.jpeg

It seems clear now that social media is changing democracies around the world. When I was teaching social media courses in 2010 and 2011, there was a lot of discussion about the role of social media in the “Arab Spring.”  The Arab uprisings started a debate over the role and influence of social media. Did Facebook and Twitter power the ousting of Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and the imminent overthrow of Mubarak.

The perceived Facebook and Twitter revolutions seemed to be centered on young protesters mobilizing on their feet and on mobile devices. Some called this “citizen journalism.”

My students, like many critiques, felt social media was a democratizing tool. But in the years since, opinions on social media and democracy seem to have turned the other way towards it as hurting democracy.

For example, Facebook has had to look at its impact it has on the democratic process after receiving much criticism for content on the platform during the Clinton/Trump campaigns. Facebook actually said it could no longer guarantee that social media is beneficial to democracy. That is a surprising admission.

For example, Facebook has had to look at its impact it has on the democratic process after receiving much criticism for content on the platform during the Clinton/Trump campaigns.

Facebook actually said it could no longer guarantee that social media is beneficial to democracy. That is a surprising admission.

One critique of social media is the ability to create echo chambers — online spaces that only surround users with like-minded people and ideas.

Soledad O’Brien examined how social media is impacting democracy on her program Matter of Fact.

Harvard professor Cass Sunstein studies this effect in his new book Republic: Divided Democracy in the Age of Social Media. Sunstein talked with O’Brien to discuss the pros and cons of social media and why the ability to filter out opposing views is a threat to our democracy.

There’s another phenomenon at work: “group polarization” which says that when you are in an echo chamber, you can become more extreme and intolerant.


 

Timing Is (Almost) Everything

In comedy, they saying that timing is everything. In social media, if not everything, it is something that needs serious consideration.

You can find many recommendations for when to post online, but the problem is that they are generalizations. The real answers about when to post need to be specific to your audience.

In real estate, they say location matters. That is also true for social media.

A restaurant in almost any city draws its customers from the local area. If you are in Washington D.C., posting for that time zone and around the times when people are apt to be looking for dining suggestions (Are you a breakfast or dinner place?) is optimal. A restaurant in San Francisco needs other posting times.

If your business has wider national or international reach, you may need a strategy that includes multiple accounts, such as Twitter handles, for each region.

How well do you know your audience? Questions to consider: What time are people waking up? Are they accessing your resources during work hours, evenings or weekends?

There are many free and pay tools to help you find the best time to post, such as Audiense,  and using an auto-scheduler dashboard (such as Hootsuite) then allows you to schedule social media times based on when they have performed the best.

Hootsuite has recommended Best Times to Post on the big 3: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Facebook is interesting for timing. One thing you might not consider at first is that  75 percent of your Facebook post’s engagement will happen within the first five hours and 75 percent of your post’s lifetime impressions are reached after just two and a half hours. These posts do not have a long shelf life or “legs”

The “half-life” of a Tweet is said to be only 24 minutes and Tweets reach that 75 percent mark in less than three hours.

You will find online many recommendations for specific networks. For example, for The Huffington Post , the recommendations for maximum retweets is to post at 5 p.m. and 12 p.m., and the best days for business-to-business organizations is, not surprisingly, Monday through Friday, but for business-to-consumer it’s the weekends and Wednesdays.

Takeaway: Know your audience’s social media habits and customize to that profile for each network.

 

Infographic via Kissmetrics, a behavioral analytics and engagement platform
built for marketers and product teams.