In 2008, they shouted “Yes we can!”, but in 2012, the crowds may be yelling “accept my friend request” as Barack Obama officially launches his 2012 Presidential campaign with a heavy social media component.
With the official launch of Obama’s bid for a second term, new and improved social media and networking initiatives are practically Obama’s running partner. This should come as no surprise. Not only has social media boomed since the last election, but Obama has always been the most cutting edge candidate in terms of technology both in his campaigns and in his term as President.
In the 2008 election, Trendrr reported that Obama had 844, 927 MySpace friends compared to McCain’s 219, 404. Moreover, in 2008, Obama dominated McCain on Twitter in terms of followers; he had 112, 474 followers to McCain’s 4, 603. Finally, on YouTube, Obama had uploaded 1792 videos around the time of the election and had approximately 115, 000 subscribers and roughly 18,000 Channel views; whereas McCain had 329 uploaded videos and had approximately 28, 000 subscribers. Did social media win President Obama the 2008 election? Probably, not, but it didn’t hurt him either.
Heading into 2012, Obama’s camp will surely have stiffer social media and networking competition from the Republicans. However, Obama has come out of the gates with gusto. The campaign launch includes an intelligently designed Facebook pages that plays to the medium, by including family photos and Obama’s favourite television program.
However, the Facebook page isn’t just a token gesture; it works in combination with the newly redesigned BarackObama.com. The site is set up to include additional features when someone is logged into Facebook. Most notably, users can download an App that allows them to go through their Facebook friends list and customize “Are you in?” notes to them. This allows individuals to participate in the recruitment process, letting them connect with friends and spread the social media word about Obama’s run for President. The campaign’s Facebook page hopes to gain the same kind of support as the President’s “personal” page which has 19 million “likes”.
Of course, there is also YouTube, where Obama officially launched the new campaign in a two minute video. The video shows voters across the country discussing why it’s important to get involved and actively campaign for Obama. While Obama’s use of viral video isn’t new, starting a campaign on YouTube shows how dedicated he is to using social media. But it isn’t just the tools of social web Obama is interested in, it’s also the attitude.
In an email message to followers, Obama wrote: “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.”
Those are fighting words, and the Republicans should take note. Obama and his camp are not using social media and networking as a token gesture to play to a younger demographic, they are using the strengths of the medium, by creating dialogue, encouraging connection, and playing to the idea of interactivity. While some might argue about the timing of Obama’s campaign launch, there is no denying that by coming out of the gates first, and with such high scale social networking, he’s set the precedent for the 2012 election campaign.