The 2012 American Presidential were not the first “social media elections” – social media promotion has been around since 2000, and the 2008 Obama campaign is notable for its use of Facebook and Twitter, often cited as a key reason behind Obama’s 2008 win.
The differences between 2008 and 2012, and more importantly, between the Romney-Obama campaign on social media are important lessons in social media PR.
1. Obama understood the importance of words
While everyone in the digital medium knows that images get more visibility than mere words, the Obama campaign understood the importance of words – Obama’s oration is his strongest point, and this USP was driven aggressively: 29 daily tweets (17 on his presidential account, 12 on his campaign’s handle)
Obama, who had definitely captured youth loyalties in 2008 (with over 13 million “engaged and empowered” online) by using a catchy ‘Yes We Can’ messaging on social media, pushed his messaging aggressively – as compared to Romney.
2. Obama Expanded the Social Media Map
Reddit is the front page of the web – if something goes viral on Reddit, it’s viral on the web.
Specifically, the AMA (Ask Me Anything), with 2,204,929 readers is rapidly becoming a hot avenue for online reputation-building, specifically for celebrities who want to be seen as open, friendly and honest (that’s why its called ‘Anything’!)
That Obama’s surprise Reddit foray took down a website designed for heavy social traffic of millions definitely shows that his time wasn’t wasted.
Flickr, LinkedIn, Technorati, Digg, Friendster, Youtube – even Pinterest– the Obama umbrella covered major and upcoming social networks.
3. Improve on previous campaigns
PR campaigns are, to a large extent, based on adding new touches to previous successful campaigns.
There’s nothing radical about Obama’s behaviour on social media – what he did get right is
i. Fundraising online (something Ron Paul Campaigns in 2008 and 2012 have been successful doing)
ii. Grassroots activation to garner new online supporters in different American communities with Meetup.com (pioneered by Howard Dean’s campaign in 2004)
Specifically, Obama converted donors to voters, and channeled online buzz for real support at his rallies – he got it all right.
Obama’s ‘Forward’ campaign motto was devised to drive the message of moving the country onward after the economic hurdles of the last four years. But his aggressive social media strategy might also transform how political leaders run campaigns online – especially those who are aware of how voters behave on social media.