Politico’s Laura Brown discusses social media in politics

Politico’s Laura Brown came to kick off Social Media Week by talking to students and faculty about how much of a role social media is playing in politics and the 2016 presidential election.

//Photo by Ryan McGill

Laura Brown, advertising operations manager for Politico and University of Tennessee alumna, came to start off Social Media Week 2016 on Monday, March 28.

The lecture centered around how social media is entangled in modern life, especially in the realm of politics. The speech touched on varied topics including politics, net neutrality, the ethics of nonstop coverage of Donald Trump and how the newer and older generations differ on how they consume news.

“I’m here today to talk to you a little about how the internet is disrupting politics,” Brown said. “The only thing predictable about the 2016 election so far is how unpredictable it is.”

Speaking on the current presidential election, Brown talked primarily about Trump and Bernie Sanders, two candidates who she said are disrupting the political norm. She also mentioned how Ted Cruz, another Republican candidate for president, is utilizing social media better than any other candidate.

“The Cruz campaign has hired a team of behavioral psychologists to take your internet persona and map it out,” Brown said. “They use this data to determine which message you might be most receptive to.”

Brown said the Cruz campaign uses three separate classifications for potential voters: true believers, stoic traditionalists and temperamental conservatives. The campaign has a different message tailored for potential voters who may respond better to one of those three messages over the other two based on their social media presence.

She also explained to the audience how social can take action against something in the same way it shares viral videos and images. Brown said that when net neutrality was introduced, social media mobilized to keep it as a relevant discussion, citing the reaction to be similar to the “blue-and- black or white-and-gold” dress that went viral around the same time.

Brown also noted the difference between the generations and media consumption. She said that the newer generation is primarily consuming media through social networks whereas older generations are still relying mainly on cable news and newspapers.

Specifically when referring to Trump, Brown also touched on how news outlets cover the Republican frontrunner.

“The media is covering Donald Trump because people are clicking on stories about Donald Trump. On the other hand, people keep on rapidly clicking on stories about Donald Trump because the media keeps on covering Donald Trump.” Brown said, comparing the situation to a “chicken or the egg” narrative.

Brown also offered her thoughts on the election, specifically comparing it to the elections in 2008 and 2012; “Believe me when I tell you that this is going to be one of the most studied elections in American history.”

Social Media Week will be going on until Friday, April 1. Look here for a full list of speakers and topics.

Edited by Courtney Anderson

Featured image by Ryan McGill