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Social Media, Politics, and Beppe Grillo

Making a Movement Through Social Media

By Bethany Snow

In the past few years, social media has made broad advances into nearly all aspects of our lives. We communicate with family, friends, businesses and celebrities in a way that we have never been able to before.

Even more recently, social media has made strides in the political arena. The last U.S. Presidential election, for example, showed that almost two-thirds (!) of those polled considered the information received through social channels to be as good, if not better, than traditional media outlets. The generation that just voted for the first time is also the same generation that has grown up with Facebook and Twitter at their fingertips. It only makes sense that politicians understand, appreciate and take advantage of this segment of society and engage them where they are already gathered.

Just last week, in Italy, however, the power of social media really showed its strength. A fringe candidate who barely registered at five percent on the early polls rose to the head of the pack and surprised everyone. Beppe Grillo, an Italian comedian-turned-politician and founder of the Five Star Movement, engaged and stirred up hundreds of thousands of Italians.

“His skill has been to channel Italians’ general frustrated apathy into a powerful political movement, spurning mainstream media to talk to them directly through Twitter and Facebook. Grillo has, by an enormous margin, the largest social media following of any politician in Europe: he has more than one million Facebook friends, and a similar number of Twitter followers – Bersani has about a quarter of that (as does David Cameron). His blog is the most widely read in Italy.” – Jamie Bartlett of the Guardian

Grillo has successfully converted his Facebook likes into real world votes and he did so with nothing more than a shoestring budget and a whole lot of social media savvy.


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