Lev-On, Azi. 2018. Perceptions, uses, visual aspects, and consequences of social media campaigning: Lessons from municipal Facebook campaigning, Israel 2013. In Sub-National Democracy and Politics through Social Media, eds. Mehmet Zahid Sobaci and İbrahim Hatipoğlu, pp. 149-168. Berlin: Springer

Facebook has recently emerged as a central communicative arena for political representatives and constituencies. Still, there are very few studies about Facebook usage in municipal campaigns. The paper adds to this literature by presenting a comprehensive picture of the scope, character and impact of Facebook usage, and the perceptions of candidates about it, based on data collected on 2013 municipal elections in Israel. The first part of the paper presents findings from semi-structured interviews with 67 candidates running for heads of municipalities about their views on Facebook use, the advantages and drawbacks of political activity on Facebook, and the perceived impact of Facebook activity on election results. Findings indicate that contenders consider Facebook as an arena that offers opportunities but is also replete with danger; above all, they feel that presence on Facebook is obligatory. They do not believe that Facebook activity significantly increases the share of votes they receive, but they are convinced that their absence from Facebook would have a negative impact on their election prospects. The second part of the paper studies which variables influence engagement on Facebook campaign pages, and whether Facebook activity, along with institutional and population-level variables, influences the vote share that candidates receive. Using the Facebook activity of 387 candidates running in the municipal elections, it was found that institutional variables (primarily size of constituency and incumbency status) had a significant impact on the scope of Facebook engagement. The impact of Facebook activity on election results is positive but slim. The third part of the paper presents findings from a visual analysis of images from the Facebook pages of contenders. The analysis demonstrates massive use of images, but often unprofessionally and lacking clear goals; Secondary use of made-for-print materials like stickers and posters, alongside the near-complete absence of made-for-Facebook materials like collages and memes; and lastly, focus on images of supporters instead of candidates.


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