Politics in the Digital Realm: Challenges and Opportunities

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With Mexico’s presidential election fast approaching, campaign advertising has inundated the country, across every kind of media. Politicians and campaigns are using digital platforms to exert significant influence on everything from social movements to electoral turnout, and activism more broadly. This year, the digital realm is the one most worth watching, a trend that will become even more pronounced in future elections.

The volatility and complexity of digital media audiences makes attention to detail a must for online content creators. Any error or discrepancy, regardless of how minimal, will be detected by users. The same logic applies in the political sphere: The characteristics of candidates, whether positive or negative, are highly amplified on digital platforms. Get it right on social media and you get it really right, but get it wrong, and you’ll never live it down.

During the third presidential debate in Mexico, held on June 12, we analyzed the behavior of social network users and checked on how the conversation had developed around the four candidates for president. Social networks were very active before, during and after the debate, with most of the conversation focused on Andrés Manuel López Obrador (also known as AMLO) and Ricardo Anaya. José Antonio Meade had a significantly lower presence among social network users, having fewer mentions than Jaime Rodríguez Calderón.

The candidates’ activity levels on social networks varied significantly on debate day, each taking a different strategy. For example, Jaime Rodríguez Calderón was very active before and after the debate, while 54% of José Antonio Meade’s activity took place during the event. AMLO kept the lowest profile on social media, choosing not to participate online before and during the debate. He published a tweet afterwards, which generated more than 36,000 reactions.

When examining the public’s reaction on social media, we saw AMLO with the highest number of positive mentions before and after the debate, while, during the event, it was Anaya who garnered the majority of positive comments (37%). Calderón accounted for 44% of the negative mentions before the debate and 43% after the event. On the other hand, López Obrador received 39% of the negative mentions prior to the debate and 40% after it. The topic that dominated the conversation during the debate was economic growth, both among social media users and the candidates themselves. Other subjects that stood out were education, health and poverty.

While no one can predict what will happen in the elections on July 1, social media networks allow us to take a more accurate pulse of the conversation and give us a better understanding of the electorate and developing trends. Even still, “When we believe we have all the answers, all the questions change,” Uruguayan writer Mario Benedetti once said. This is why companies must be actively listening to the environment and be ready to adapt to the changing reality of public sentiment and political reality in order to make strategic decisions and effectively engage with public and private audiences. Nowhere is this more relevant than in Mexico, a country which is about to go through one of the most important transitions in its history – one that is heavily influenced by the latest digital trends.