Obama & Romney Love Social Media – as a Broadcast Platform

As we all know, President Barack Obama has just finished a tight political race with challenger Mitt Romney. Both candidates used a number of digital marketing tools this campaign season, the main one being social media. According to a recent study by Pew Research Center’s Project of Excellence in Journalism, this election was in part a contest of who masters changing communication technology better, and Mr. Obama took solace in trouncing Republican opponent in that department. Obama’s social media campaign was active in nearly twice as many platforms, and posted almost 4 times as much content as the Romney campaign. Obama’s social media content also produced twice the number of responses from the public, in terms of likes, shares, views, and comments on posts. Despite Obama being on ahead however, social media engagement from both parties seemed to be lacking. According to the infographic below by Thomas Pardee, of the 404 tweets the Obama campaign posted in a 2-week period, only 14 of them were re-tweeted from other users. Of the 16 tweets the Romney campaign posed in the same period, only 1 was re-tweeted from other users. It was observed that immigration prompted the most social media engagement from Obama followers, while healthcare drove the most from Romney followers. Both parties treated social networks more as broadcast mediums than engagement tools, largely focusing on domestic and economic issues, while avoiding foreign policy. Rather than engaging in a new level of dynamic “conversation” with voters, the parties used social media mainly to push their messages out. There was minimal use of citizen content (and voices) from either party. One area that Obama did master however (unlike Romney) was localizing his digital messages by adding state-by-state content pages filled with local information. By utilizing social media in such a way, he lessened the role of mainstream press in getting the word out to the public. The main findings of the Pew report were as follows:

  • Obama’s campaign has made far more use of direct digital messaging than Romney’s.
  • The campaign is about the economy, but what that means differs depending on to whom one is listening.
  • The economy may have dominated both candidates’ digital messaging, but it was not what voters showed the most interest in.
  • Neither campaign made much use of the social aspect of social media.
  • Campaign websites remain the central hub of digital political messaging.

The infographic (at the botton of the post), entitled “How Obama, Romney (and Friends) Are Using Social Media” was circulated by several people and companies that I follow on Twitter. Marketers and social media gurus all seemed impressed with the infographic and the information it conveys, incorporating it into making articles.  (*Post continues after infographic)


Although I agree with most of the points made by the Pew Research article, I do think that President Obama did step up his social media engagement towards the end of his campaign and into Election Day. On Reddit, the popular social messaging board, Obama invited readers to ask him anything. He personally took time out of his day to answer any questions people had, and even posted a photo of himself answering questions as proof that it was really him. On Election day, he turned back to Reddit and asked readers to go out and vote. Although it may not be on Twitter, President Obama certainly understands the value of engagement on social media sites.



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