232 | 30, pp. 229-248 | doxa.comunicación

January-June of 2020

Communicative strategies on Facebook: personalisation and community building in the 2016 elections in Spain

ISSN: 1696-019X / e-ISSN: 2386-3978

and their leaders do not use this platform as a means of engaging in dialogue with other users (Klinger & Russmann, 2017; Macnamara & Kenning, 2011; Magin et al., 2017; Ross, Fountaine & Comrie, 2015; Russmann, 2018; Sweetser & Weaver, 2008). These results coincide with what has been observed on other social networks, such as Twitter. Thus, studies that have dealt with Twitter indicate that politicians tend to offer a one-way discourse, focusing on self-promotion of their own content such as program proposals and campaign events (Alonso-Muñoz, Marcos-García & Casero-Ripollés, 2017; Pérez-Dasilva, Meso-Ayerdi & Mendiguren-Galdospín, 2018; López-García, 2016; López-Meri, Marcos-García & Casero-Ripollés, 2017).

However, previous literature is in agreement when it points out that the relationship between politicians and citizens is one of influence. Thus, political parties and leaders tend to use social networks as a tool for effective voter mobilization and the dissemination of information about campaign events (Stetka, Surowiec & Mazák, 2019; Williams & Gulati, 2013). Studies such as the one carried out by Valera-Ordaz (2019) show that in the Spanish general elections of 2015, some political groups took advantage of Facebook pages to promote community building and social cohesion with people who had ideas that were similar to those of their political program. At the same time, López-Meri, Marcos-García and Casero-Ripollés (2017) point to the 2016 national election campaign a year later in which traditional and emerging parties dedicated a large part of their Twitter messages to encouraging citizens to take an active role in the campaign, as well as explicitly asking for their vote.

This influence on voters also takes place from the point of view of personalisation. Various studies indicate that politicians tend to use social networks as a way of giving greater prominence to the leader (Gerodimos & Justinussen, 2015; Puentes-Rivera, Rúas-Araujo & Dapena-González, 2016). This trend that can be seen, above all, in those platforms based on the use of image. In this sense, candidates take advantage of this visual potential in order to show how they carry out the activities associated with their professional role, as well as other situations typical of their daily lives, thus humanizing their political image (López-Rabadán & Doménech-Fabregat, 2018; Selva-Ruiz & Caro Castaño, 2017). Studies such as that of Enli & Skogerbø (2013) also point to an incipient trend to share some aspects of their private lives, such as family photos or cultural endorsements, among others.

In this context, after more than a decade has passed since the first studies were conducted on the use and influence of social networks in Barack Obama’s election campaign, it is interesting to look more closely at the Spanish case. Specifically, the aim of this article is to analyse the main functions attributed to Facebook by politicians who ran in the 2016 general elections. The objective is to discover the purpose for which they used this platform and to identify their communication strategies. In this regard, the following research questions and their respective hypotheses have been proposed as follows:

RQ1: What functions do parties and their leaders attribute to Facebook during election campaigns?

H1: Political parties and their leaders tend to promote their campaign events and programs, as well as ask people for their vote, but they hardly use Facebook to encourage real dialogue with their supporters. However, leaders strive to strengthen ties with their community of supporters, share personal aspects, and give backstage information and anecdotes related to the election campaign.