Obama social media Strategy
The 2008 Obama Presidential campaign made history. Not only was Obama the first African American to be elected president, but he was also the first presidential candidate to effectively use social media as a major campaign strategy. It’s easy to forget, given how ubiquitous social media is today, that in 2008 sending out voting reminders on Twitter and interacting with people on Facebook was a big deal. When Obama announced his candidacy in 2007, Twitter had only just started and there wasn’t even an iPhone yet.
An effective social media campaign is based on the psychology of social behaviors not the current technology
Four years later, the media landscape looks a lot different. There are an ever-increasing number of social media tools and a rapidly growing user base across all demographics. Current measures of American adults who use social networks are at 69%; that’s up significantly from the 37% of those who had social network profiles in 2008. And contrary to concerns about social media causing civic disengagement, numbers out of Pew Research show that 66% of social media users actively engage in political activism online. They estimate that to be the equivalent of 39% of all American adults. Like many other behaviors, online activities translate into offline ones. Researchers at the MacArthur Research Network on Youth & Participatory Politics report that young people who are politically active online are twice as likely to vote than those who are not.
In the run-up to the 2012 presidential election, there was lots of speculation about the potential impact of social media this time around. In 2008, McCain’s campaign was as social-media-deaf as Obama’s was social-media-savvy. Would the Romney campaign be able to compete in the social cyberspace? Would the Obama campaign be able to effectively harness social technologies again?
Like JFK was the first president who really understood television, Obama is the first social media president. In 2012, Obama not only had the expertise on his team, he had an established social media machine up and running. Since social media is about relationships, having a running start building those connections is a distinct benefit. While the Romney campaign was not left in the dust as McCain’s had been, they did not achieve the traction that the Democrats did.
Obama dominated the social media space because his team got how networks work. The real power of social media is not in the number of posts or Tweets but in user engagement measured by content spreadability. For example, Obama logged twice as many Facebook “Likes” and nearly 20 times as many re-tweets as Romney. With his existing social media base and spreadable content, Obama had far superior reach.
The real drivers of an effective social media campaign, however, are based on the psychology of social behaviors not the current technology.
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