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Presidential Candidates Use Social Media To Repackage Campaign Moments

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And now to the intersection of technology and politics for this week's All Tech Considered.

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CORNISH: A presidential campaign is nothing in 2015 without a digital strategy. That will be on full display during the Republican debate this week. And this is fully in the wheelhouse of Scott Detrow. He covers campaign tech for us. Scott, welcome back.

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: Thanks for having me.

CORNISH: All right, so debates have been watercooler moments for ages. Social media makes a difference in what way?

DETROW: Well, these things have become a lot more interactive. A lot of people watch these debates with their computers out, with their phones out, and they're tweeting and on Facebook the whole time. So they've kind of become tentpole moments for campaigns - something to organize their message around. And they're using this event - as it comes up, as it happens, afterwards - to raise money, to gather information - you know, names, email addresses, social media profiles of likely supporters and also trying to raise their candidates profile and generate some buzz.

CORNISH: So they probably want to go viral in a good way - right? - (laughter) in a good way. How do the campaigns go about doing that?

DETROW: Well, this has become kind of a near-instantaneous process now. Last month, during the first debate, campaigns were taking moments and instantly repackaging them and pushing them out on their social media platforms. You know, one example - Governor Chris Christie and Senator Rand Paul had a very heated exchange about national security.

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CHRIS CHRISTIE: That's a completely ridiculous answer. I want to collect more records from terrorists but less records from other people. How are you supposed to know, Megyn?

RAND PAUL: Use the 4th Amendment.

CHRISTIE: What're you supposed to - how're you supposed to...

PAUL: Use the 4th Amendment.

CHRISTIE: No. I'll tell you how - look.

PAUL: Get a warrant.

DETROW: Minutes after this exchange ended, both campaigns had taken the video, uploaded it and were pushing it out on Twitter, on Facebook and using it to try and instantly create that momentum and keep it going. You know, in previous cycles, what soundbites became viral or notable - it was kind of a passive process as far as the campaigns were concerned. Now you see much more of an active attempt to create momentum right away.

CORNISH: And of course, they're trying to do it on social media networks like Facebook and Twitter. Are they getting any better at it?

DETROW: They have. Campaigns have always been able to target their ads in posts to specific audiences even before this was all online. But that targeting has gotten a lot more advanced even since the last election. Campaigns can target these posts to people by location, age gender. Some campaigns even pay to put their tweets in front of specific reporters who are covering events. And Twitter recently rolled out an advertising feature. It says it can identify who's watching and reacting to specific big events or TV programs. And they do that based on the content and context of users' tweets.

CORNISH: You know, you can want buzz. That doesn't mean you're going to get buzz, right?

DETROW: Right.

CORNISH: Many candidates are learning that right now. Do they really think, say, a Facebook video's going to win them votes?

DETROW: I think they're hoping that it can get them noticed. You know, there's 16 Republicans trying to be president right now. It's a fight even get on the campaign stage, let alone be the person who stands out. So they're doing everything they can to try and manufacture that moment of buzz. But you're right. Sometimes it doesn't work. Bobby Jindal spent the last week, like, hammering Donald Trump over and over and over again on his social media profiles in an effort to try and raise his profile, and it's kind of a question of whether that's cut through yet.

CORNISH: That NPR's Scott Detrow. Scott, thanks so much.

DETROW: Thanks. Anytime. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.