Since the 2008 election, using social media in presidential campaigns has been a topic of discussion. In fact, it will go down in history as the first major election where voters were able to discuss politics with their friends and show support of the various candidates. Among other aspects of the campaign, President Obama’s social media success was and is still noted as far beyond the efforts of his competition.
The 2012 election has seen a definite increase in social media use by both parties; however, many experts still maintain that the Obama campaign is doing a smarter job. As Mark Knight wrote for The Huffington Post, “It seems that the Obama team understands the language for social media better than his Republican rival. They’re ‘willing to be lighthearted and jokey’ and their social media language and graphics have a tone and feel which sits comfortable with the digital world. Romney’s approach is more traditional and is reminiscent of a 65-year-old encountering social media for the first time and trying to force the pace.”
Despite HuffPo’s potential bias on the matters, Knight makes a very good point. Governor Romney’s efforts tend to fall short maintaining a genuine rapport with voters as well as the commitment the team is putting behind the platforms (on Twitter, for example, his bio briefly states “Former Governor of Massachusetts”).
Obama and his team are continuing to explore new means of connection and engagement with users. The President has taken to Google+ hangouts to answer questions and speak directly with voters, as well as a recent Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything). The event doubled the popular site’s traffic and was viewed by a huge success by the site’s co-founder, Alexis Ohanian. Ohanian also publicly welcomed Mitt Romney to host an AMA session, citing the governor’s opposition of SOPA as evidence of his internet and social media capabilities.
The most important statistic however, is whether or not social media success will translate at the polls come November. The numbers across the various social networks show Obama ahead in a landslide, but the latest polls show the candidates neck and neck. A number of factors may account for the disparity such as the age of average the average social media user as well as voter turnout. The election is less than a month away and it will be interesting to watch what techniques the candidates use as we get closer.