Reddit and Twitter: Obama’s Social Media Machine

OPINION

by

Bernard Feinsod

The Obama campaign’s use of technology may make the difference in the 2012 election.
(Google Images)

Since the 2008 presidential election, the Obama campaign has displayed a remarkable understanding and mastery of the revolutionary potential of new media. From video games and social media networks like Facebook and Twitter to the crowd-funding collaboration site, Kickstarter, team Obama has effectively demonstrated a more current world outlook than many politicians on today’s national scene. At the center of the “Yes We Can” and “Forward” presidential election campaigns, is a unique combination of a grassroots movement that connects with working-class folks and celebrities alike.

President Obama’s image as designed – because all political candidates are constructed tactically (even graphically) – is founded on a platform of change and old school values simultaneously. The Obama campaign’s use of new media technology reflects this approach moving way beyond traditional fireside chats through technology, yet connecting with millions of people through a story of grit and glory. In an article by Jim Stein for the Huffington Post, President Obama’s campaign manager Jim Messina stated, “This [technological innovation] is light-years ahead of where we were in 2008. We are going to make 2008, on the ground, look like ‘Jurassic Park.’” Messina added that the campaign intends to surpass its record-breaking records set four years ago because through “trial and error,” they have learned how to run a better campaign.

Take one charismatic president with popular appeal, add an opposition seemingly out of touch with regular folks and an aggressive digital marketing strategy and digital success is imminent. This is not to say the Romney campaign does not have a formidable digital presence; Romney lacks President Obama’s star quality and is targeting an older demographic that uses social media, but not to the same extent as President Obama’s supporters, whichskew younger and are the most active users of social media networks. Messina understands the need to  explore new technological developments and to develop custom products, which is why the Obama campaign currently dominates the Internet battleground.

In line with Messina’s predictions, the campaign is finding new means of connecting with the masses, and incorporating all identifiable methods to combat America’s shrinking attention span. Although Romney and the Republican Party are catching on, they are dwarfed by the web savvy of the Obama campaign. For instance, President Obama has over 28 million Facebook fans while Romney has 6.3 million.

The Obama ‘Ask Me Anything’ (AMA) campaign on Reddit is brilliant because it connects everyday people to the leader of the free world, which is desirable in a democracy.

Reddit is based on a democratic model allowing users to vote for or against a topic. The democratic element lends itself to similar social media networks like Twitter, where anyone can steal the show at any given time, which President Obama did, during the RNC.

In the past, the President has held town hall style chats on Twitter and LinkedIn to great success, but his ‘Ask Me Anything’ initiative on Reddit was groundbreaking. Reddit received record visitation at over 5 million visitors on that day, and 2.9 million page views during the ‘Ask Me Anything’ initiative. President Obama’s DNC speech garnered 52,757 tweets per minute, which is a Twitter record. Social media is still in its infancy so it is hard to determine how it influences presidential outcomes, but if President Obama’s campaign continues exploring and developing social media strategies, then social media as a political tool may turn out to be the key to winning four more years.

Bernard Feinsod is a weekly contributor to The Burton Wire. Follow him on Twitter @BernardFeinsod.

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