The (Potential) Benefits of Campaigning via Social Network Sites



Social network sites (SNS) have become very popular, especially among adolescents and young adults. Consequently, politicians started to use them for their campaigns. This paper examines how this personalized soft campaigning strategy worked in the 2006 Dutch elections and how interaction with potential voters can influence the evaluation of the candidates. The first question is answered by a web survey among active users of Hyves, the largest Dutch SNS. The second question is answered by a web experiment on a fictive candidate. The survey showed that SNS provide an opportunity to reach individuals less interested in politics. Viewing a candidate's profile further strengthened existing attitudes. However, the politicians did not fully use the interactive features of SNS during the 2006 campaign. The web experiment showed that politicians who react on the comments of users were perceived more favorable. This effect was stronger for right-wing politicians and left-wing voters.