November 17, 2012

Campaigning Smarter: How social media revolutionized the election process for President Obama

By Aaron Williams– The role of social media cannot be understated in the 2012 presidential election. Coming back from Cincinnati on election night, I found myself glued to the Twitter app on my iPhone, discovering that it was the most ideal medium for the distribution of real-time election results. Tweets from Bloomberg, AP, the NY Times, NPR and CNN came at an unrelenting pace every couple of seconds as each news organization battled to be the first to project a winner in states where the polls had already closed. Surrounding these tweets were the proclamations of political allegiances from everyday Twitter users on both sides of the aisle. “#TeamObama” and “#FourMoreYears” were trending nationally as the American public rushed to one of their favorite social media platforms to let their voices be heard. President Obama, for the most part, did an excellent job tapping into social media with his cyber-campaign. The president’s Twitter account was sending out tweets imploring voters still in lines at polling centers in swing states like Ohio, Florida and Virginia where the polls had already closed to stay in line and let their voice be heard. Numerous celebrities, including Spike Lee, took it upon themselves to assist the president by tweeting out similar encouragements to their thousands of followers. President Obama also took to the popular Conde Nast website Reddit for a second time this year to crash servers in order to get the procrastinating youth voters out to the polls. The president’s thread on the top of the political forum read simply “Reddit, this is important.” Obama’s advocacy of social media in this campaign separated him from his Republican opponent in an important way by reaching out to youth voters. Yet it wasn’t just simple strategy that won the Obama campaign a victory in 2012. It was how the campaign used social media to organize itself. All week long we have been hearing the moans from Fox News about how the Obama campaign was simply better organized at getting their vote out. But how exactly did the campaign do that? I witnessed it for myself first-hand interacting with the leaders of Organizing for America in Price Hill, Cincinnati on Tuesday. College kids, my own age, utilizing iPhone map applications to divide and conquer streets and neighborhoods at a time, knocking door to door in search of Democratic voters. The director of the whole Price Hill initiative came bounding up to the polling center at St. Lawrance Parish on Tuesday evening with her MacBook in hand, ready to show us where all the polling centers in the district were at with just the click of the button. This is the face of the new Democratic Party, a coalition of the willing united by the way they believe the United States should be run and utilizing today’s technology to ensure their candidate’s victory. Republicans simply cannot generate the same level of excitement among youth voters that Democrats seem to be capable of. And until they can, the GOP will face a distinct and ever-growing challenge on the social media front in the form of new, emerging technology connecting voters in ways never before possible in an election. [email protected] Photo courtesy

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