Social Media’s Leading Role in the 2012 U.S. Presidential Election
According to Pew Research, social media is not just for kids any more. In fact, thirty-five percent of Americans who are 65 or older reportedly use social media. There can be no doubt that social media played a large role in this year’s presidential election. From Facebook to Reddit, both candidates were providing the topics and allowing voters to fight to the finish on the internet. No matter what age, Americans turned to social media to help them decide the future of the country this year, and studies show, it made a big difference.
If you want to get technical, social media has been around since the early 70s; however, it has never had quite the impact on the way we live like it is having right now. Some may say that it started with Myspace, a site originally designed for musicians and bands to advertise. Myspace soon became open for anyone to use to advertise themselves and their lives, and grew exponentially until Facebook arrived and methodically took over the world. Weblogs soon swept the social world on the internet as a way for anyone and everyone to share their thoughts and feelings. Then, Twitter revolutionized the blog by making it micro. Soon, information was being shared faster than it had ever been possible. Thus, social media has been a part of people’s lives for quite some time, but it has not had an impact on the decisions we make as a nation until much more recently.
While social media had been around for quite a while when the 2008 campaigns took place, it was truly the first time that either party began to test what social media could do for them. It mostly started with Facebook. In fact, it was not until 2011 that President Obama became the first president to utilize Twitter during a town hall meeting. By the time the 2012 campaign was in full swing, the usage of social media by both parties was at an all time high and would eventually play a large part in the outcome of the election.
If you had no idea who won the election, and you looked at a breakdown of the social media statistics of both candidates, you would be able to make an accurate guess at the outcome. According to Social Media Today, Mitt Romney posted more on Facebook, and managed to raise his fan base by 80%. However, while the Romney campaign may have posted to Facebook 243 times more than Barack Obama, the president logged 13,400 shares to Romney’s 4,400. Obama tweeted exponentially more than Romney did during the campaign and managed to reach out to his followers numbering almost 19 million higher than Romney. The most retweeted tweet in Twitter’s history was Obama’s “Four more years” tweet during the early morning hours of November 7th. The photo posted by his campaign on Facebook of the President hugging his wife in celebration became the most liked photo in the history of Facebook.
He may have had a jump on his opponent when it came to Facebook and Twitter during the election, but perhaps the thing that truly set Obama apart from Romney was his willingness to expand his reach. In one of the most talked about moments in election history, Obama made a last minute plea to voters via the emerging social media website reddit.com. He was not new to reddit. In fact, he had used it months before in August for a question and answer session with users. Reddit.com calls itself “the front page of the internet,” and Obama proved it a few hours before the polls closed on November 6. Writing, “I’m checking in because polls will start closing in this election in just a few hours, and I need you to vote,” Obama reached out to the demographic that was more likely to be online than in line. He went on to say, “If you’ve already voted, don’t stop there—spread the word to your friends, roommates, and neighbors. Think of it as ‘upvoting.’” He used this term in reference to the reddit.com feature that allows users to vote on headlines and thus improve the order in which they appear on the website.
When Obama used reddit.com the first time in August, he broke records for the website’s usage. Upwards of 200,000 visitors participated in the session on that day. When he made his plea in the last moments of Election Day, he received almost 400 comments in under twenty-five minutes. He then went on to win the election and continue to break records in the world of social media.
This year, the world was watching to see and hear the outcome of the U.S. presidential election. More importantly, Americans were tuning in and turning on, rather than off. Social media accounted for a plethora of healthy debates, freely expressed opinions, and disastrous arguments regarding the election. If the nation is using the World Wide Web to help them decide on a leader, imagine the other difficult decisions for which they may be more likely to turn to the internet for guidance.
This guest post was written by Arlene Brill who loves all things Internet Marketing. She is currently working with SociaLink Media, a leading social media management company based in Chicago, IL. When she is not working, she is often found reading motivational books and hiking with her dog.