JOURNAL OF GOVERNANCE AND POLITICS

JOURNAL OF GOVERNANCE AND POLITICS

SCHOOL OF GOVERNANCE AND POLITICS, MGIMO UNIVERSITY, RUSSIA

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24 September 2020

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18 September 2020

MGIMO Institute for International Studies Publishes Article in Leading European International Relations’ Journal

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Social Networks as Means of Facilitating Election Strategies in Russia and Abroad: a Comparative Analysis

Karina A. Burba,
School of Governance and Politics, MGIMO University

Abstract:

Currently political campaigns face a new paradigm of facilitating election strategies through Social Networks. Obviously, the success of candidates during their races depends on their Social Network policies. In this context, the article analyses election campaigns during the races for Maryland (U.S.A) and Saint Petersburg (Russia) governors and the races for Oslo city council (Norway) and Moscow City Duma respectively.  It is relevant that all election campaigns at issue took place during 2018-2019, when Social Networks had become an essential part of the people’s lives. The principal objective of the comparative analysis is to outline different approaches to election campaigns which are applied in Russia and abroad, and comprehend whether Social Media Marketing as a digital means can facilitate election strategies nationally and internationally.

Key words: Social Networks, Political Social Media Marketing, Social Media Political campaign

Main body

Social Networks are an essential part of people daily life and a good tool for politicians to engage electorates and build a voters database. In order to succeed these networks should be synchronized with marketing strategies and form Social Media Marketing (SMM). A candidate digital portfolio can involve an updating of accounts on Social Networks, a promotion of YouTube channels, a Pre-Rolls launching, a developing of messenger channels, a creation of stickers with candidates on different messenger platforms, an involvement in programs with popular bloggers, Influencer Marketing and other kinds of Digital Marketing as Search Engeen Marketing and Content Marketing. For instance, Ksenia Sobchak and Pavel Grudinin used such methods during the Russian Presidential race and Donald Trump spent about $200.000-300.000 per day on SMM on Facebook during his election campaign 2016. While well-known politicians are usually good at SMM less popular ones can underestimate this method or use it incompletely.

Taking a closer look at Saint Petersburg 2019 elections, the main social network for its governor Alexander Beglov is Russian “VKontakte” where he has an account with about 56 500 followers, the activity on Instagram and Facebook isn’t so high and there is no YouTube channel.  He began to prepare for election 2019 in advance: his first post was published in March 2019 “to learn about citizens’ view on the development of the city”. He did not block commentators, solved their problems and published the results. As an incumbent governor, he also published the news about accomplished work and at the beginning of summer he decided to post weekly the results of the Saint Petersburg City Administration work. There were only 3 posts concerning election: about his registration, then his invitation to vote and finally the post about his victory with 64,5% of votes.

The year before the gubernatorial election in Russia the same election took place in the U.S.A (the estimated population of Maryland and the Northern Capital of Russia is approximately the same). The author considers a case of Larry Hogan campaign because he is the one who managed to win the most votes of any governor in Maryland history (55%). He is an active Instagram (17,2k followers) and Facebook user. During the race he posted the achievements over his office, met with the voters and posted the news about endorsements of different well-known people and organizations. There are a lot of private posts: his family pictures, the adoption of a dog, a surprise for his wife etc.

Table 1.

Comparative table of A.Beglov and L.Hogan SMM activity

Facebook / VKontakte activity

Instagram activity

YouTube activity

Results of work

Calls for voting

Feedback

Influencer Marketing

Private posts

A.Beglov

+

-

-

+

-

+

-

-

L.Hogan

+

+

+

+

-

-

+

+

The next case concerns Moscow regional elections 2019 (Alexey Shaposhnikov) and Oslo local elections 2019 (Raymond Johansen). For both of them their election races were very competitive and they both were incumbent representatives during their election campaigns. However, the Russian one had been using Social Networks for his whole previous office and his Norwegian counterpart had made a break for 2 years before his elections started. None of them resorted to influential people and both called for voting.

Table 2.

Comparative table of A.Shaposhnikov and R.Johansen SMM activity

Facebook / VKontakte activity

Instagram activity

YouTube activity

Results of work

Calls for voting

Feedback

Influencer Marketing

Private posts

A.Shaposhnikov

+

+

-

+

+

+

-

-

R.Johansen

+

+

-

+

+

-

-

+

Conclusion

Summarizing all above information, we may say that all the covered campaigns are not similar as it may appear. It is noteworthy that Russian politicians gave feedback while their abroad counterparts did not (it runs in the Russian history and is a part of its mentality – let us recall Putin live question-and-answer sessions). However, A. Beglov and A. Shaposhnikov did not use two main principles of digital marketing. The first one is to target electorates with social media influencers or well-known personalities, the second one is to represent one’s private (or almost private) life (this way a person’s life becomes a “series” for followers and they become engaged and interested in it). As to Russian laws, the first rule should be implemented very accurately but the question concerns the second one: “why are Russian politicians so afraid of representing their personal lives?” even though it helps electorates to form the personality of a candidate. 

Trying to make the reasons of this paradigm clear, firstly, we can turn to the Russian and the Western history: freedom and individualism concepts are different. Secondly, families of politicians are subjected to the safety threat, the outcomes of which can be worse in Russia than in the West. Last but not least, the new digital generation had appeared in the West long before the same happened in Russia. And “digital” in this sense means also open to the audience and ready to show personal features and actions. Such digital generation is just appearing in Russia.

References

  1. Ayankoya, Kayode & Calitz, André & Cullen, Margaret. (2015). A framework for the use of social media for political marketing: an exploratory study.
  2. Ayankoya, Kayode & Cullen, Margaret & Calitz, André. (2014). Social media marketing in politics.
  3. Ayankoya, Kayode. (2013). A framework for the implementation of social media marketing strategies in political campaigning.
  4. Elena Kazban. (2009) The ideas of “freedom” and ‘individualism” in the Russian and Western political thought // The Power, №7 (in Russ.)
  5. Nadaraja, Rubathee & Yazdanifard, Assc. Prof. Dr. Rashad. (2013). Social Media Marketing: Advantages and Disadvantages.
  6. Ng, Greg; Amara, Kate. (2018). "Gov. Larry Hogan makes history with re-election in Maryland". WBAL-TV.
  7. Shahid, Hasan. (2019). Effectiveness of Social media marketing.
  8. Vonderschmitt, Kaitlin, "The Growing Use of Social Media in Political Campaigns: How to use Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to Create an Effective Social Media Campaign" (2012). Honors College Capstone Experience / Thesis Projects. Paper 360.