The Affect of Social Media on the 2012 Presidential Election

Author: Jack Martin

With the historic Wisconsin Governor recall elections now over, it’s safe to assume that most of us are ready to stop seeing all of the political advertisements popping up on every website we visit. Unfortunately, it seems we will be dealing with these political advertisements more now than ever until the November Presidential Election is over. Social media will play a crucial role in making the 2012 Presidential Election the most expensive election in U.S. History. Although the 2008 election was only a little under 4 years ago, the Digital Campaign Landscape differences between then and now will astound you. The amount spent on online advertising has increased from $22 million to $159 million. With so much money being spent for online advertising, it raises the question if this focus on social media is really worth it? The answer is, yes.

Before the internet, candidates were dependent on tv and radio as their main sources of communication to voters. These sources of media limited the amount and more importantly the age of people they were able to reach. With the median age of those who watch the news to be 63, candidates were missing out on the opportunity to connect with the younger voters. The presence of social media sites have granted candidates the opportunity to connect with young voters. With the average age of social media users being 18-34, candidates have been offered an easy way to reach millions of young voters in an efficient and cost effective way.

Take a second and think about a time you saw something on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc. that you just couldn’t get enough of, so you had to share it with your friends. You didn’t only share it, you also added your opinion on the topic for all of your friends to read. This process is the most effective way candidates can use social media to promote themselves. Let’s review some statistics to really highlight the role that social media will play in this upcoming election.

A study done by SocialVibe revealed that:

94% of people on social media who are of voting-age have actually watched an entire political message.
Not only have they watched it, but 39% of them also shared it with, on average, 130 friends.

A Digitas survey conducted in 2011 showed that:

6 out of 10 social media users agreed with the statement, “I expect Presidential candidates to have a social media presence.”
51% of those users also said they would use social media sites to learn more about the candidates for the upcoming 2012 election.

Social media sites also allow candidates to track your behavioral patterns in order to target specific users with their ads. Behavioral patterns and stored data allow candidates to get a feel about where they stand and in what areas of social media they could use some improvement. Although voters have the opportunity to spread a candidates message via social media sites, candidates themselves also need to be engaged personally in social media sites in order to give voters timely and accurate information on their campaigns, while also connecting with voters on a more personal level.

If you haven’t already discovered, the presidential candidates have joined the Twitter world. President Barack Obama has been an active tweeter since mid 2008, tweeting on average a few tweets a day and racking up over 16 million followers. On the contrary, Mitt Romney joined twitter in mid 2009, tweeting significantly less than Barack Obama, with followers only adding up to a little over 500,000. Just for some observations, let’s take a look at last nights recall election candidates and their twitter accounts. Scott Walker has almost 3,000 tweets and about 42,000 followers, whereas Tom Barrett has almost 2,000 tweets and only a little over 8,000 followers. Could Scott Walker’s greater twitter presence have played a role in his victory? If so, will the difference in tweets and followers of the presidential candidates play a role in the outcome of the 2012 presidential election? Only time will tell.

There is no denying that social media will play a role in the upcoming 2012 Presidential Election, but to what extent? The popularity of social media sites and pages are determined by the users, you! Each and every one of us can play an important role in the upcoming election. “Like” the Facebook page of your candidate of choice, share their videos, follow their tweets, and you will be surprised with the impact you can have on the results by simply using social media sites.

Are you currently following any political candidates on social media? Has social media ever affected any of your political decisions?

Comment below and let us know!