Social Media and the US Presidential Election

Social Media and the US Presidential Electioncourtesy of ABC News

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last 24 hours, you know the US presidential election is over and the victor was Barack Obama — who wins another 4 year term. Much of the remaining election results were as expected, with the US House under republican control and the US Senate under democratic control. A few state houses changed, most notably in NC, which now has a Republican Governor for the first time in a long while.

But, this isn’t a political blog so I won’t belabor the presidential election results. Instead, I’d like to focus on what we’ve learned about social media and marketing from the presidential election.

Social media and the presidential election

Election forecasting

A number of media outlets — both traditional and social media — tracked Tweets to help predict the presidential election. Mashable reported today that, by tracking favorable and unfavorable Tweets of the last few weeks, the election results are not surprising. Election night featured a whopping 20 million Tweets about the presidential election by 10 pm. I even saw a graphic on ABC highlighting the difference in the number of Tweets — I voted for Barack Obama versus I voted for Mitt Romney — that, of course, eventually reflected the results from the presidential campaign.

Social media effectiveness in the presidential campaign

I also think the results from the presidential election confirm what many of us already know — social media out-powers traditional media. Both candidates in the presidential election spent more on a political campaign than had ever been spent by a candidate for president. Yet, the effectiveness of this massive spend on political advertising on the election results mirrors what we’re seeing in terms of the effectiveness of traditional media for brands — broadcast media is dwindling in its impact on changing consumer attitudes and motivating consumer (or voter) behavior.

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While both candidates used social media — including Facebook and Twitter — Barack Obama’s campaign did a much better job of understanding social platforms and mobilizing the vote.

Barack Obama is no novice to social media. He effectively used social media in 2008 to not only win the presidential election, but to develop a superior war chest with micro-donations from millions of little guys. In the 2012 presidential race, he used that knowledge of effective social media to outperform his opponent – Mitt Romney.

Here’s how he did it:

  • He was a REAL person. He posted pictures of himself enjoying normal family events and quiet time with his family that allowed us all to relate to him like he was the guy next door. In contrast, Mitt Romney always appeared a little stiff and an outsider rather than an intimate.
  • He judiciously used his posts and Tweets so you never felt he was hijacking your social network (at least until Tuesday, when it became a little overbearing).
  • He understood the power of a social network. His message constantly reminded you to share it with others in your social network — thus achieving maximum amplification.
  • He ran a sophisticated social media campaign. On Tuesday, I was constantly reminded to ask specific Facebook friends to go out and vote. These specific directions are more likely to motivate sharing than a de-personalized suggestion to share.

What the presidential election means for YOUR brand

It’s hard to argue with the results from the presidential election and what it means for the future of social media marketing.

  1. If you’re NOT using social media marketing as part of your marketing mix – START
  2. Learn how social media works — it’s not like advertising or PR
  3. Social media is getting more sophisticated. If your staff or agency is still recommending tactics from a couple of years ago — CHANGE. You should be hearing terms like metrics, analytics, integration, in addition to engagement from your social media folks.


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