FIVE weeks ago Prime Minister Kevin Rudd posted a photo of himself sporting a shaving cut on Instagram, and the media exploded.
Mr Rudd has long reigned supreme on social media - with 1.3 million Twitter followers, he is the most popular Australian on Twitter, closely followed by model Jasmine Curtis- Smith.
His success is largely due to the authenticity of his posts - like the shaving cut and constant updates on his pets - which let people feel they are behind the media wall.
The picture of the Prime Ministerial facial cut has almost 8500 likes on Instagram and has been the centrepiece of countless articles, including this one, on the importance of social media to politicians and the election campaign.
Social media has been factored in to Australian elections since 2007, but it's never been so ubiquitous.
And it's not just those who use social networking sites that feel the effects.
Swinburne convenor of journalism Andrew Dodd says the popularity of political missteps or gaffes on social media contributed to the increasing vacuity of political news coverage.
"It's a hallmark of all election campaigns that the coverage seems to be superficial and veneer-thin, but this time around it's my opinion that it's thinner than usual, and there's more of a focus on the trivial," Dr Dodd said.
Dr Dodd said stories about gaffes or trivialities, like Liberal candidate for Greenway Jaymes Diaz's inability to remember the Coalition's six-point plan on asylum seekers, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott's awkward conversation with singer Katy Perry and Mr Abbott's "suppository of all wisdom" remark and Mr Rudd's hair trouble, were "currency on social media".
"It's cheap and nasty. What do we learn from it? We learn that a minor candidate in a marginal seat made a gaffe," he said.
"It's a shame because social media really can be used for something better and more than this."
More beneficial uses of social media include fact- checking political statements and highlighting issues that may have been skipped over and given less attention in mainstream media, although this is more visible on Twitter than Facebook.
"The challenge is to engage people in meaningful ways in the political process," Dr Dodd said.
"If social media just encourages more derision in politics and less understanding of it, then we are all diminished by it and it could be much more than that."
The heads of the Tasmanian election campaigns say they use social media to reach out to people and listen to what they're saying.
The Greens campaign director Daniel Patman said social media was an important tool for the party, which did not have a big campaign budget.
"We have got a really strong young Greens presence in Tasmania and those guys are really enthusiastic and they are really good at re-tweeting things and posting things on Facebook," Mr Patman said.
"It's really hard to get the mainstream media interested in what we are saying, so I think for us it's really effective because we can post links directly to our policies and people can see what we're about."
Australian Labor Party Tasmanian state secretary John Dowling said it was up to candidates to decide how much of their campaign to base on social media. "[Denison Labor candidate] Jane Austin has used social media a lot, but someone like [Lyons Labor MHR] Dick Adams uses it a bit but not to the same level," Mr Dowling said.
"It's horses for courses type of thing - I couldn't quite imagine [Mackeller Liberal MHR] Bronwyn Bishop on social media, but you could imagine (Longman Liberal MHR) Wyatt Roy on social media."
Liberal Party state director Sam McQuestin also said social media use was up to the individual candidate, and he did not want to outline their broader social media strategy lest it tip off the competition.
"There's a number of different media that can be used to talk to voters and social media is part of that mix," Mr McQuestin said.