The New Election Battleground: Social Media

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“Did you see the latest tweet from President Obama?”

“Mitt Romney just liked my comment on his Facebook post!”

How about lunch with the President? Part of a Twitter campaign, you can be in the running – once you make just a small online donation – for the chance to have a personal chat and share a meal with Mr. Obama.

As U.S. presidential campaign activity kicks into high gear, White House hopefuls are lobbying for new territory: social media. Realizing the power and connectivity that social platforms such as Facebook and Twitter provided in the 2008 race, the Republican and Democratic campaign parties alike have cemented these tools in this year’s run for office. And rightly so. With more than 140 million Twitter and 156 million Facebook  users in the U.S., these social networks present a significant opportunity to impact a diverse and far reaching audience of potential voters.

The New Media Campaign

In 2008, then Governor Obama tested the waters with social media, embracing new media tools to bolster fundraising efforts –raking in donations while engaging with voters. With the strategic use of viral emails, social networks, user-generated videos, YouTube debates and other online innovations, the Democratic Party raised some $500 million from three million donors who made a total of 6.5 million donations online. This forward thinking and interactive digital campaign four years ago has set the stage for the digital political battleground today.

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The presidential hopefuls have dropped (or at least lessened) the cold-calling and are tweeting their way toward the Oval office. To date, President Obama boasts nearly 19 million followers on Twitter; Governor Mitt Romney trails with only 882,000. Looking at these facts, it’s not hard to see why the current President has connected so well with the younger demographic. The same goes for Facebook: President Obama boasts a whopping 27,828,420 “likes” to Romney’s 4,708,855 (granted, President Obama has a nearly four year head start).

Though we can’t yet predict whose digital campaign will prove more successful, we do know social media is here to stay. It’s an integral part of how we as individuals – as consumers and voters – connect and make decisions, and it is changing campaigning, just as it continues to change the way businesses communicate and engage with their key audiences.  The ability to share opinions on a grand scale from the comfort of your home (or office or car or…) has given a powerful voice to millions in the U.S. and around the globe. By properly leveraging these digital mediums, politicians and thought leaders alike have a unique opportunity to influence and impact those who matter most: their “buying” public.

In the coming months we will be watching our news feeds for the latest updates from the campaign trail, and maybe sending a tweet or two in the direction President Obama or Gov. Romney. With this new opportunity to connect with our government, will you be doing the same? Let us know what you think about the ‘digital campaign’ and if you believe it provides an authentic connection with this year’s political race.

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