In fact, it was Yussi Pick’s task to mobilise voters, particularly on social media channels. We are speaking with him about the role of social media in the US election campaigns, why society needs to be more media-competent and the differences between the US and Austrian elections. Yussi Pick is a communications consultant from Vienna and a social media expert. During the US election, he worked for Hillary Clinton’s Team.

While Austria is still preparing for its own Presidential elections, he has decided to fight for the White House. What role did social media play in the US election?
A big role. Social media has arrived.
Social media played a big role, particularly in the distribution of each party’s own, self-produced content. The costs for this were enormous: we had our own video team, a TV studio and our own newsroom. Every organisation, NGO and, of course, party, needs its own media production – this is the top discovery from this election. They can no longer rely on the media to produce news for them. They need to get their expertise in film, video, editing, text, graphics etc. from within their own teams.

you need to be everywhere where the people are, and this includes social media channels

Is it no longer possible to win an election without being active on Facebook, Twitter & co.?
What does ‘election campaign’ mean? An election campaign means being where the people are. And the people are now on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat etc. And, of course, people are also active on other forms of media: they listen to the radio in the supermarket, watch news programmes on the TV in the evenings or visit news websites. So you need to be everywhere where the people are, and this includes social media channels.

in the world of new media we need to be the filter ourselves

In your opinion, what is the greatest challenge for social media election campaigns?
It is no longer clear which are the serious sources and which are not. We need to differentiate between fact / truth, opinion and misrepresentation. In the world of traditional media, there was (is) a filter for this: the publisher, the editor, the moderator, the journalist…
In the world of new media, we need to be this filter ourselves. As news consumers, we need to decide for ourselves which information we do or do not want to have. This requires media competency.

But it can’t be assumed that every person has such media competency.
That’s correct. You can’t assume these skills, but they must be the goal of society. And that doesn’t just apply to the USA, but also applies to us in Austria.

This goal of having a media-competent society sounds utopian.
Let’s take a look back: traditional media arrived 100 – 150 years ago. At the time, the first newspapers were pamphlets which published one-sided opinions. The result of this was a critical attitude and a wave of enlightenment thanks to competent readers.
And this is exactly what we need again now: a wave of enlightenment. This requires media competency.

In a few days, we will elect a new President of Austria. Social media is playing a large role in the Austrian election campaigns, too. Are there big differences between the Austrian and the American election campaigns?
There are very big differences. In short: the Austrian parties are still very hesitant when it comes to social media. They still use posters, even though an election has never been won through poster advertising.
Particularly at a time where party memberships are declining, a modern election campaign must be a movement, and social media is a driving factor in this!