Obama’s Campaign: Keeping the Social Media Lead

Barack Obama’s 2008 Campaign for Presidency represented a fundamental shift in the ways that online media can play a role in a political campaign. It is clear through the readings that Barack Obama dominated John McCain in all facets of the social media battle, but what was it exactly about the Obama’s mastery of social media campaigning helped lead him to his landslide victory?

In Edelman’s piece entitled The Social Pundit, 10 lessons are outlined to summarize the key points to Obama’s social media success. Of the 10 lessons, 9 appear to stem from the most important strategy point – laddering support through tiers of engagement. The goal of this strategy was to “provide opportunities for the most casual supporters to stay involved, while also providing more strenuous opportunities for the smaller core of activists.” (Edelman, 6) This shows that the Obama campaign fully understood the levels of activism different people can achieve, from the highly involved advocate to the casually involved personal participant. The most important key to this strategy was that it empowered people who felt passionate about the Obama campaign to actively pursue donations, host events, and campaign in battleground areas.

The question that arises with this is how does President Obama’s 2012 Campaign ladder look? In a much more tightly contested election where it appears many Americans are a little more skeptical, is the Obama campaign managing to match or surpass the amount of social media users who quality as advocates? In Gureoguiva’s article, in table 13.2, you can see that while in the 2008 election Obama dominated all sides of social media, Romney was also popular despite losing the nomination. Surely in the last 4 years Romney has made significant strides to catch up to Obama in the social media battle, so how can the Obama campaign manage to maintain its lead in this area. If Obama is unable to match the amount of passionate and active voters at the top of the ladder who do the heavy lifting in the final stretches of the campaign, how will this effect the final voting numbers?

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5 Responses to Obama’s Campaign: Keeping the Social Media Lead

  1. rebeccaashleynathan says:

    It is an interesting task to think about Obama’s 2012 Campaign ladder. I am not surprised to hear that Romney’s presence in social media has greatly increased over the past four years, as he became a final contender for the presidency. In order for Obama to maintain his lead in this area, I would encourage active users to spread the word in-person. I believe that political activeness in person-to-person situations will go further than just relying on social media sites to propagate Obama’s word. If Obama is unable to match the amount of passionate and active voters at the top of the ladder that do the “heavy lifting,” the counting of votes will be evidence of such. He will inevitably have less votes if he is unable to do so.

  2. triciamittman says:

    I agree that while Romney and Obama are both supremely active in the social media world and use it as a vehicle to propel their campaigns, much has to be done in person to achieve the ultimate goal. In order to appeal to both ‘veteran voters’ that have already been politically active for a number of years, as well as new or the younger generation of voters, I propose the idea of tying together real-life actions with online efforts. For instance, a contest or online race that would ultimately result in a speaking event or other personal meet and greet with the candidates would allow young voters to get excited about and more involved in the campaign, and thus more likely to vote on election day. The primary goal of candidates is to increase the amount of voters likely to vote for them and I believe an omnichannel strategy lends itself to this goal.

    • brittanyverner says:

      Tricia, awesome comment. I completely agree. Incentives are a great way to get voters and supporters of all levels to participate. Sometimes even a thank you letter or acknowledgement on a wall/letter is enough to motivate people to help with a campaign. I am not sure how much not being able to meet the heavy lifters will effect voting…

      • goblu says:

        I agree with you Brittany, incentives seem to be the way to go, especially in such a consumer driven world. I do think that the heavy lifters will effect voting in the end though. It is those heavy lifters that will go door to door on the days of election to get people out to the polls that normally would not vote. If Romney has done a better job at getting those heavy lifters, then I think he has a better chance of getting the lagging population vote.

  3. Lauren says:

    You bring up some good comparisons regarding the 2008 and 2012 election. It is pretty evident that social media has made large and impacting strides throughout the past four years. Because of this, I feel like the ways the candidates are utilizing the tools they have are a little bit altered. While obviously social media plays a large role in publicity and campaign awareness, I am wondering if voters pay as much attention to it. When I say this I mean, I feel as if social media has become so embedded in the everyday lives of voters that people do not think to look at it as a separate entity.

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