Commentary

Media Usage in Student Government Campaigns

Every February, for two weeks, a flurry of activity grips Ball State University’s campus as the Student Government Association campaign gets underway. During that time, slates try to convince the student body to elect them to office. For some, it’s one of the most important times of the year. Others are completely oblivious to the occurrence.

In years past, the slates used conventional means to campaign, namely speeches, flyers, T-shirts and buttons. In the past few elections, however, the use of the Internet as a means of campaigning has increased dramatically. This year, all three slates had a Facebook group, two had both a Web site and a Twitter account and one even had a message board and video clips.

The Facebook group was the main Web feature of all three campaigns. Slates used it to distribute a plethora of information including platform items, meeting and event times, Web site links, as well as slate member and voting information. The most important feature was the built-in mailing list of supporters.

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Twitter overtook individual slate Web sites as the next avenue of interaction between slates and voters. Twitter was mainly utilized to send out meeting and event times as well as information on how to vote. The interesting aspect of Twitter was the ability of supporters to retweet that information. So while each slate may have only had 50-100 followers, the subsequent retweets could have reached thousands.

A Web site, while the anchor of Web presence for local, state and national campaigns, is somewhat of an afterthought to most voters in SGA campaigns. This year was no different. With that being said however, one slate did spend a considerable amount of effort on their Web site and the results showed. Whereas most Web sites in the past included much of the same information as Facebook, this slate’s Web site went above and beyond by posting full-length video clips, a message board and graphics that surpassed the collegiate level into the professional realm.

Despite the increased Web presence, the usual bread and butter of campaigns seemed to be the difference maker in this past election. The slate with the most T-shirts, buttons and flyers was the slate that won, for at least the 4th year in a row. However, with the increased presence on the Web from years past, future campaigns could see a shift with slates with the stronger web presence being dubbed the winner.

Only time will tell.

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