Did Social Media Decide U.S. Presidential Election?
While there will be those who look to race or age or experience or running mate in determining what finally turned the election in Senator Obama's favor, one factor cannot be denied: the use of the Internet, mobile devices, and social media in turning the tide in Obama's favor.
Right from the primaries, the Obama campaign showed how powerful harnessing the Internet and mobile devices could be. Supporters were encouraged to set up their own blogs, download chat and social network avatars, site widgets, and wallpapers, phone bank for the campaign from the privacy of their own homes, and, of course, donate. The campaign's reach across social networking was enormous in scope, with a presence on every conceivable social network, from Twitter to Facebook, and MySpace to LinkedIn. Even virtual world SecondLife had a concerted effort from the campaign, with news updates piped in from major news sites throughout the campaign. The campaign leveraged mobile as well, with SMS messages to subscribers, mobile apps, and phone calls.
The only other candidate in this campaign who truly understood and leveraged the power of the Internet was candidate Ron Paul, but even his effort didn't achieve the reach of the Obama campaign, which realized from the outset that by giving supporters all the tools to have at their disposal, it could harness the power of volunteers willing to campaign online, as well as fundraise for their candidate. On Facebook alone, 932,839 users donated their status message to remind others to vote, and over 5,000,000 reported that they had cast their ballot, reminding others in their networks to vote via newsfeed updates.
The next presidential election will certainly see a much stronger effort from all the candidates, and the same type of effort will probably be attempted by politicians at all levels. The era of the Internet campaign has begun.