Social media has become a necessary component of any political campaign. In 2008, we caught our first glimpse of the influence social media can have in the political arena. President Obama leveraged social media to inspire the youth vote and raise funds at a level unseen during past campaigns by engaging online. His partnership with Facebook to host a town hall meeting via the social networking site was a groundbreaking use of new media. As the 2012 political season gears up for the general election in November, social media is no longer an option, but a requirement for success.
Before diving in, it is important to note some key statistics. According to iDigiD.com, between 2008 and 2012, Facebook has seen an increase of 99 million users, while Twitter has increased by nearly 21 million. Additionally, 51 percent of social media users will turn to social networking sites to learn about candidates, while 62 percent of voters expect a candidate to be on social media.
Social media has allowed everyday people to create movements and spearhead fundraising efforts like never before due to social media engagement. The following three areas serve as examples.
Political communities have grown rapidly on social media sites, pulling like-minded people together in order to rally around campaigns. These online communities of advocates can be as valuable as those offline. The playing field has opened up to include Facebook and Twitter, with both major political parties scrambling to accumulate online “influencers,” advocates and bloggers to rally for them. Campaigns are no longer limited to relying on the grocery-store conversationalists to spread their message, but are now utilizing the most active tweeters, status updaters and bloggers to move the dialogue online.
From money bombs, to rallies and sign–making events, no GOP presidential candidate has raised funds as organically through social media as Ron Paul. With campaign officials often proclaiming no involvement, the Ron Paul Revolution has been a prime example of social media at its best. In 2007, an independent movement started by an online advocate resulted in a 24-hour $6 million fundraising blitz for Paul. With no help from campaign officials, the online movement spread via social media sites. Paul’s campaign has since made the money bomb a staple for fundraising, carrying it over to his 2012 run for the White House proving the value social media can bring to one original idea.
Participation and engagement
On July 6, history was made when President Obama hosted the first ever Twitter town hall. People everywhere tweeted in their questions about the economy, health care and jobs using the hashtag #AskObama. A panel of experts then sifted through the millions of questions and picked the most retweeted and engaging tweets to ask President Obama. The hype surrounding this event far exceeded previous town halls due to its interactive nature. Giving people a voice and chance to be a part of the conversation is yet another way social media can enhance any campaign.
So, what is the takeaway? Whether you are managing a political campaign, fundraising for an event or simply trying to increase interaction among supporters, social media provides your audience a platform to organize themselves. The campaigns, organizations and causes that most effectively integrate social media into their existing communications strategies will be a step above the rest.
Whether you prefer to change your profile picture to support your candidate or plant a yard sign, social media has forever changed the political landscape.
* This blog is intended to provide examples of effective and innovative social media tactics in campaigning. Saxum does not endorse any political party or candidate.