In 2016, 17% of French people inquired via social networks (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), including 63% of 18- to 24-year-olds1. Barack Obama was the first to take advantage of these new media during his 2008 presidential campaign by integrating Chris Hugues, co-founder of Facebook, into his teams. Social networks have increased the candidate’s visibility and reached a younger electorate, slightly follower of traditional media.
Twitter, Facebook, YouTube provide tools for politicians to create their own content, pack their ideas, enhance their positions and disseminate them in a broad or targeted way. Beyond the presidential campaign times, political life is now marked by their use. Government spokesman Christophe Castaner made the Facebook video “Debrief of the Council of Ministers” an unmissable event in the same way as the official press conference held a few minutes before the Elysee Palace. Better, the Prime Minister, Edouard Philippe, registered on the official agenda his Facebook Live to “discuss” with the French people, a way of “adapting to the current practices of the citizens”, according to his teams. Successful operation with 130,000 Internet users present at the meeting.
Social networks seem to take precedence over traditional communication channels. Real proximity or calculated familiarity, debate ideas or dialogue of the deaf, the use of social networks by politicians in their tireless pursuit of visibility remains a source of debate.
Social networks have the undeniable merit of democratizing information by making it accessible to as many people as possible, and of making young people aware of current events, and of politics in particular. Information, thus desecrated, is no longer the preserve of traditional media – often paying – and is no longer passively received. Today, while the viewer is watching a program, he is at the same time internet user: the practice of this famous “digital multitasking”, which concerns 73% of French people2, is a boon for politicians: to address the biggest number, diversify your audience, and interact in real time… In a way, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Snapchat enable politicians to control their communication and to bypass the traditional intermediary that is the journalist. Towards citizen, they play the card of proximity, dialogue and authenticity.
Nevertheless, this approach is not free from limits in that it is up to the politician to choose the time of the exchange, the channel of communication and the questions to be answered. Moreover, by its likes and shares, the user only has selective access, and therefore incomplete and biased, to information on his newsfeed.
Faced with these new modes of information, the legitimacy of the media and traditional journalists is questioned. Yet, they remain indispensable to the citizen-surfer since they are the assigned people to unveil, transmit, analyze, put into perspective and relay information. And not only in the context of investigative journalism illustrated by many “gates“: Cahuzac, Fillon, and Panama Papers to name a few…
Whether they like it or not, politicians cannot afford to neglect the traditional media, which remain vectors of notoriety and legitimacy. By deciding to answer three journalists on TF1, at 8pm on a Sunday evening, Emmanuel Macron implicitly recognized it – him, who, until then, had privileged the image of his action on social networks.
Because, ultimately, to be limited to Facebook, Twitter or Snapchat, is to refuse to enter the era of “and at the same time”: presence in the traditional media and use of social networks are now complementary and mutually reinforcing, in a necessarily global approach to communication, the only guarantee of efficiency.