New Media Newsletter
Social Media’s Impact on the 2012 Election
by Jordan Smith on 09/18/2012
Social media has come a long way since the 2008 election when President Obama’s campaign decisively won the social media battle over John McCain’s campaign. Since 2008, the number of Facebook users has grown from 100 million users to approximately 900 million, Twitter has seen an increase from 6 million users to 500 million users, the amount of hours of video watched on YouTube has grown from 10 hours of video per minute to 72 hours, and we have full access to social media sites at all times, thanks to smartphones.
New media is here to stay and both presidential candidates' online social presence is just as likely to affect voting as their traditional media relations presence. In October of 2011, 60 percent of social media users responding to a Digitas survey said they expect candidates to be on social media and for almost 40 percent of the respondents, the information found on social media will help determine their voting choices as much as traditional media sources like TV or newspapers.
A statistic that jumped out to me was that 94 percent of social media users of voting age watched an entire political message on a social media site, and 39 percent then went on to share it with an average of 130 other users, according to a May 2011 study by Social Vibe. The Romney campaign even had an iPhone and Android application to alert supporters, before the press and just about everyone else, when Romney announced his running mate selection.
Now that we are less than two months away from the election, both parties are beginning to run full speed ahead in their social media campaigns, as they hope to turn followers into voters. However, the amount of followers that each candidate attains throughout the election is not the determining factor of their social media success. Rather, the amount of interaction on their pages is the best measurement of success for their social media efforts.
To give you an idea of one candidate’s social media efforts, I looked at the Obama campaign’s Twitter account and found that 24 hours prior to my drafting this blog, the Obama Campaign had tweeted 36 times. Those tweets usually got 1,000-3,000 retweets, and with 19,865,843 followers, there is no telling how many people saw the campaign’s message via Twitter alone. Clearly, social media has had, and will have, a significant impact on the 2012 election.
From my own personal experience on social media the last couple of months, I regularly see Facebook or Twitter updates at the top of my newsfeed about the election or one of the two presidential candidates. Usually, those updates attract numerous comments, but mostly from folks who are in disagreement. It is like I’m watching a political debate between my social media friends on a daily basis and while annoying at times, I must admit I find it rather amusing. I personally tend to keep my political views to myself, but most of my social media companions take a completely different approach, which is fine.
How about you? Could social media help influence your vote in the upcoming election? Do you use social media as a gateway to persuade your friends’ political views? If so, has it ever worked?