It’s no secret that President Barack Obama broke barriers when he was elected to office in 2008. Not only was he the first African-American President to take a seat in the Oval Office, but he also was the first of our country’s elected leaders to fully embrace social media during his presidential campaign.
With Obama’s recent announcement to make an entrance into the 2012 race, there is much buzz about how he and his team will navigate his re-election campaign. In 2008, when social networking and media truly started transforming the political and electoral landscape, Obama’s team ramped up their efforts to boost voter outreach through several social networking outlets. And based on this year’s Twitter and Facebook (News - Alert) stats for the Democratic Presidential candidate, the game of politics is looking to be quite the popularity contest.
On the eve of Election Day 2008 (and only hours before our country made history), one thing was clear: the final results of the election would inevitably be fueled by Internet usage and social networking deployed during the candidates’ respective campaigns. That night, one Web strategist took a snapshot of the Presidential candidates’ social networking stats – and the numbers did not lie.
In 2008, Obama’s number of followers and supporters beat out Republican Candidate John McCain’s by a long shot. McCain’s Facebook supporters were a mere 620,359, severely lagging behind Obama’s 2,378,102. The same went for MySpace and Twitter: Obama with 833,151 vs. McCain’s 217,811 on MySpace, and Obama’s 113, 474 followers on Twitter, beating out McCain’s quite embarrassing 4,603. In the video space, Obama’s YouTube (News - Alert) channel, consisting of 1,792 individual videos, had 403 percent more subscribers and 905 percent more viewers than McCain’s YouTube channel, with only 329 videos uploaded.
At that time, Web strategist Jeremiah Owyang of Altimeter Group predicted Obama’s dominance in social media was caused by his campaign’s rapid integration of social networking. Late to the (political) party, McCain had only recently launched a social network on social publishing solution KickApps (News - Alert). Meanwhile, the types of behaviors to openly adopt social media depended heavily upon demographics. In this case, stats showed that Democrats were more likely to immerse themselves in social technologies – with Republicans being less likely (22 percent) to join a social network and 21 percent less likely to upload a video or blog.
It is very likely that social media helped to propel Obama into the White House, so will these tactics bode well for the 2012 election? Shortly after his bid for the 2012 race, Obama’s campaign team turned to these trusty online tools once again, immediately changing his Facebook status, tweeting his 2012 candidacy on Twitter, and sending out an email blast to millions of Democratic enthusiasts.
It didn’t stop there, as Obama’s campaign team took to YouTube and released a two-minute video featuring a number of supporters giving their “voter blessing” to the President, and sharing the reasons he should once again be voted into the White House in 2012. Looking to serve as a tag (News - Alert)-line for this year’s elections, the phrase “Are You In?” has also been strewn across these social networking sites, as well as Obama’s website, barackobama.com.
But potential Republican Presidential candidates were also quick to hop on the social media bandwagon following Obama’s illustrious efforts to connect with voters. According to Mashable.com, as soon as Obama’s first campaign video appeared on YouTube last week, Tim Pawlenty, ex-governor of Minnesota and possible GOP candidate for the 2012 race, came back with his own version by boldly calling out Obama, whom Pawlenty hinted at as a failure to America. At the same time, GOP party representatives Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann (News - Alert) and Newt Gingrich responded to the Obama campaign announcement on their respective Twitter accounts.
Despite these efforts, GOP candidates have a lot of catching up to do. To put it into perspective, Pawlenty has only 81,000 Facebook fans, as opposed to Obama’s 19 million fans, which, of course, have accumulated over the past few years. Palin, who has both captured the hearts of and sparked many an uproar among Americans, has over 2 million Facebook fans.
In a message to supporters, Obama urged voters to follow him closely on his electoral journey, slated to be overflowing with connections and voter motivation. "We'll start by doing something unprecedented: coordinating millions of one-on-one conversations between supporters across every single state, reconnecting old friends, inspiring new ones to join the cause, and readying ourselves for next year's fight," Obama said.
According to an LA Times blog, Obama’s campaign is looking to raise about $1 billion for its efforts to convince voters to place a checkmark next to his name come Nov. 6, 2012.
Tammy Wolf is a TMCnet copy editor. She also writes articles for TMCnet on a wide range of topics, including IP communications and information technology. To read more of her articles, please visit her columnist page.
Edited by Janice McDuffee