Social Media’s Impact on Indiana’s #RFRA Bill

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By now, most of us are aware that #socialmedia has had a tremendous impact on American society, our culture, and on the world in general.  Social media networks have revolutionized the way people communicate and socialize on the #Web, and many social media sites have become some of the most popular spots on the #Internet.

For political and social issues, social media has become a vital #PR tactic to influencing public opinion, especially for younger adults, and as many rely on social networking for #political news, most politicians are finding that they need to be active on social media for political success.

Most recently, #Indiana Gov. Mike Pence learned the hard way how influential social media can be. He was the latest target of a social media firestorm after the signing of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a bill that was originally intended as a way to protect Christians from being forced to participate in same-sex weddings. After the signing of #RFRA, a powerful and widespread political backlash began to sweep the social media and the news, and the state of Indiana was the target of intense pressure from almost every outlet on the #Web.

Over the last decade, public support for gay marriage has climbed from 31 to 54 percent, and the same age bracket that is heavily influenced by social media — young adults — are far more likely to support gay rights. Nearly 7 out of 10 #millennials, Americans born after 1980, support gay marriage. What those number mean, is that passing a bill like #RFRA in 2015 isn’t quite as easy as it might have been like it was in 1993, when the Federal Religion Freedom and Restoration Act was.

With all eyes on #Indianapolis, mainly due to the the #NCAA Final Four, there was a lot of attention already on the state. And unfortunately for Gov. Pence and the state’s #GOP, the power of Facebook, YouTube, Google+, Twitter and LinkedIn were unified in opposition to the bill, and the #RFRA uproar was another example of just how easy it was for a candidate to lose control of the message, especially if they haven’t done a great job of communicating its purpose very well.

As we move forward into 2015, politicians and other #publicrelations professionals need to take into account the power and impact social media has on controlling and changing a message, and also the power it wields to quickly influence public opinion. Unfortunately for many politicians, they are finding out the hard way that social media is here to stay, and it’s more influential than they realize.

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