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Online communication has become a central part in the communication repertoires of political actors in Western mass democracies. In Switzerland, where broadband, internet use, and media literacy are amongst the highest in the world, all major political parties run their own website and are active on social media. This article seeks to show how Swiss political parties deal with social media, how they implement it and how they use social media. The study builds on empirical data from a structural analysis of party websites, the official Facebook sites, and Twitter feeds. These social media sites were analysed for their resonance, update frequency, and thematic clusters focusing on information, mobilization, and participation. A weekly assessment of the user numbers illustrates the development of user resonance throughout the 2011 election year. While political parties claim to appreciate the dialogue and mobilization potentials of social media, they mainly use social media as an additional channel to spread information and electoral propaganda. The overall resonance is still on a very low level. The data seem to sustain the normalization hypothesis, as larger parties with more resources and voters are better able to generate effective communication and to mobilize online than small and marginal parties.
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Keywords: Switzerland; political parties; social media

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Institute for Mass Communication and Media Research, University of Zurich Department of Media & Politics, Zurich, Switzerland

Publication date: June 1, 2013

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