Welcome to the social media election

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Social media is driving the 2016 presidential race, as candidates of both parties increasingly view Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as key battlegrounds in the fight for the White House. Campaigns have used social media in past elections. But in recent months, it has threatened to overtake traditional news outlets, paid advertising and the campaign stump as the top venue for candidates to rally voters, hit their rivals -- and even make news. And those best able to harness the power of social media are showing they can use it to generate the most buzz.

The Sen Bernie Sanders (I-VT) campaign has parlayed the liberal senator’s formidable social media presence and a #feeltheBern hashtag into record attendance at rallies around the country. When Donald Trump fires off a late-night Twitter tirade, it shows up in the feeds of more than 3.7 million followers. “I think one of the most interesting things this year is that it’s no longer a question of if candidates should be using these platforms, it’s how and how often,” said Erin Lindsay, a principal for digital at Precision Strategies, a consulting firm founded by veterans of President Barack Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign. In recent days, social media has even doubled as a virtual debate stage, with candidates sparring in a manner inconceivable just a few election cycles ago.


Welcome to the social media election