Sunday, April 24, 2011

Social Media, Meet Politics

Today is Tuesday. It's not quite half way through the week, but it is not the absolute beginning. Usually my Tuesdays are pretty dull. I go to class, I come home, I nap, I think about doing school work - pretty average if you ask me. Although it may be a boring day for me, there's never a slow moment in the social media world. Every second, millions of people interact with each other through social media networks. This week, I have decided to examine how social media will be a power player in next years 2012 Presidential Election. 

Writers and bloggers all over the country, have coined the next US Presidential Election as a social media battle. Mashable writes, "It’s clear that there will be more back and forth via social media this time around than in 2008, when Obama’s campaign pioneered the use of Facebook and Twitter to reach voters.In 2008, social media networks were not as developed and as popular as they are today. Facebook currently has over 500 million users, Twitter is a little behind with 175 million users, and Youtube is rapidly growing with 490 million users. With this type of major social presence on the Internet, it is no surprise that that social media is going to play a very influential role the upcoming election. As one of the quickest and most efficient means of connecting people and transferring news, social media will be a critical tool for political candidates to reach the American public. For anyone who doubts this, just type in the hashtag #barackobama, and you’ll be able to tap into millions of real-time conversations about the current President (or go on Facebook and observe his 19 million fans). 

On Monday April 4th, President Obama announced his 2012 re-election campaign. However, this time it was in the form of a video that went viral.  I say it went viral because within a matter of minutes my Facebook newsfeed was bombarded with "I'm In!" likes for Obama. In addition to releasing a video on Youtube, Obama offered ways for people to get involved via Facebook and Twitter. Simply go to Obama's website, click "I'm in!" and instantly, you are connected to the millions of other people backing Obama's campaign. Obama's video release was an excellent and quick way to spread the word about his re-election. The amazing thing about social media is that each time someone posted the video, someone else could share it, retweet it, email it, and spread it to hundreds of other people with the click of a button. This type of social media "storm" allows for news to spread within seconds. 

Shortly after Obama's video went viral, Republicans were prepared to release their rebuttal video. Whereas Obama wanted "change," potential GOP candidate, Tim Pawlenty (R- Minnesota) is telling us it's time for a "new direction." (Note to all politicians: I'm kind of sick of these generic "change" "directions" and "it begins here" mottos.) Pawlenty's video is the exact opposite of Obama's. Instead of smiling faces talking about how excited they are for the election, the GOP video uses brisk, rough images of gas prices and financial crisis to depict the current state of America. If you haven't seen the price of gasoline, I recommend just staying indoors. The video definitely uses "shock value" to convey the importance of this next election. 
In addition to Tim Pawlenty, Mitt Romney has also jumped on the social media bandwagon and released a video announcing his decision to run for President. Just like his fellow competitors cheesy lines, Romney informs us that he "believes in America." Mashable wrote a great summary of Romney's "believe in America" video. Romney talks about unemployment, the economic crisis, and directly blames Obama for all of these issues. In addition, Romney's video takes a different approach addresses the audience directly. Whereas the other videos used images and music to convey emotions, Romney uses facts as a means to evoke emotion. Romney talks about his credibility and the types of plans he has for America. Not that I don't like Mitt Romney, but this video was a bore. I found myself dozing off after 35 seconds. At least Pawlenty's video was so loud it kept me awake and focused. 

If you thought silent videos were no longer popular, clearly you have not been paying attention to the political storm on Youtube. Former Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, recently added a "silent" video of a Democratic Representative giving a silent speech. The video, entitled "Speechless," condemns the Republican Parties agenda for 2012. New York Representative Joe Crowley used posters with messages on them to deliver his "speech" to Congress last week. The video has already received 260,000 + views on Youtube. Although Crowley is not a political candidate, this video  helps show how other politicians are using social media as a way to fuel the 2012 election. 

While many politicians have used Youtube as a campaigning source, surely the battle does not end here. After this Youtube frenzy of political videos, politicians took their thoughts and ideas to Twitter. Republican Mitt Romney called out Barack Obama saying, "@barackobama I look forward to hearing details on your jobs plan, as are 14m unemployed Americans.” Unlike Romney, other politicians were smarter and did not use Twitter as a means to bash a fellow politician. 

Recently, President Obama went to the Facebook Headquarters in Palo Alto, CA and participated in a live "Townhall Chat" with Facebook creator, Mark Zuckerberg. Obama answered questions about the government, current policies, and the future. I must say this was a smart move on Obama's behalf. By making ties with the largest social network in the world, Obama was able to spread news about his campaign and policies very quickly. In addition, Obama's consistent involvement with Facebook helps emphasize the importance of social media. Although this was a great PR move, hundreds of people protested outside of the Facebook HQ against Obama. 

Over the next few months, it will be important to monitor the political chatter to see the reactions to these videos and what type of topics are stirred up on social networks. I'm sure as it gets closer to the election, certain hashtags will be used to help organize information. It will be important for politicians to monitor the "social media airwaves" to try and learn more about the American public. By observing conversations and topics, politicians can better aim their speeches and ideas. 


  1. Social networking is going to be a huge part of election I think from Obama forward. It has created an entire new forum for politicians to reach people and in my opinion it works a lot better! I mean the number of young people that can be reached the Facebook and Twitter is HUGE and the interactions between candidates and the people is changing the whole concept behind the traditional campaign!

  2. I agree with Alex, I really think the 2012 election is going to bring out the most voting from young people in history, thanks to social media. All the candidates seem to be realizing this too.

    And is it just me or does Pawlently's video look like a trailer for a Michael Bay movie?

  3. that's an interesting topic! I think the social media will have a huge impact on the candidates and the election as a whole.

  4. It’s clear that there will be more back and forth via social media this time around than in 2008, when Obama’s campaign pioneered the use of Facebook and Twitter to reach voters

    Media Monitoring

  5. Being a responsible user of an Australian broadband service provider, it hurts to see that the internet is being used for selfish political means.

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