Social Media - An Election Tool

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With the impact of Social Media still being debated, countries across the world are harnessing the power of social media effectively. In the most recent case, it was the high profile American elections. Though the Obama camp eventually emerged as a winner, the reach of both the Republican and Democratic candidates’ campaigning team was widened through the use of Social Media. Social media played a deep role and the technology use for election is here to stay.


Right from buying tweets which had names of candidates, to gathering comments on public debates or promoting  the election agenda, social media tools were exploited to the maximum possible extent by both teams. But what makes these presidential candidates  shift from the traditional marketing medium of TV, newspapers and radios to Social Media? Well, it is the reach of these tools across demographics and races from a single click of a mouse without the need for expensive investments in other communication mediums.


Not only candidates but also the voters have used the social media tool to promote their parties and some people have voluntarily given reasons why others should support their choice or candidates. Political conversations on Facebook and  twitter were also  a common phenomenon during election days. By analyzing this online conversation, some research agencies have published statistics showing that a considerable number of registered voters had made their voting party clear by sharing their experiences with  photos of their voting experiences, “I voted” stickers, wide smiles — and voting ballots. The expression of mandate is definitely a concern for lawmakers since anybody can bribe you to vote for a different party. But for sure during this election, lawmakers were not quick enough and people exploited the tools to their fullest possible use.  


The 2012 US election day opened with fresh information on Facebook and Twitter. Thousands of people, of all parties logged on to Facebook to click the  'I voted' box at the top of their news feed. Using this information, social media strategists on both the parties could monitor the voted percentage of poll locations, geographic, age demographics etc which proved vital to mobilize  volunteers as and when needed. Even the social media site foursquare gave an 'I voted' badge to users by using #ivoted when they checked in to respective polling locations.


On the other hand, through the use of hash tags like #ElectionDay2012, #TeamRomney, #TeamObama, Twitter users were able to get thousands of up-to-the-second updates on what people worldwide had to say about the election. Even numerous  celebrities were tweeting throughout the day about which candidate they supported in a last minute attempt to inform and influence their followers. Major news outlets  also helped  the world stay informed by live blogging about the election via their Twitter accounts. As per a report,31 million total tweets and spikes of more than 327,000 tweets per minute were reported on Election day breaking all previous records and testing the infrastructure of social media companies.


Going into the 2012 election, President Obama’s campaign team was not new to social media tools. They had used the social media machine during his 2008 election debate by flooding YouTube with videos, reaching millions of viewers. But the Romney camp did very well in 2012 compared to its predecessor competing against Obama. Still,the Obama camp,based on experience and good strategies , left  the Romney camp beaten, amazed, and stunned at the final outcome.


Now here is a scary part. Though you might not like this , the campaigning team  gathered detailed information about each of the eligible voters on the social media websites. All voters were connected by Web paths and the campaigning team was able to trace  to family members, friends, coworkers, acquaintances and neighbors. Also the campaigning team were able to find what all these points of contacts did, what they liked, what TV they watched, what books, papers, and blogs they read. Based on such detailed analysis the campaign flyers and aids were customized for such voters. This is a perfect  example of private information  used efficiently by both teams.


The power of the Obama campaign  team stunned Mr. Romney's aides since they saw voters they never even knew existed turn out. With a database of more than 13 million people, Web networks, flesh-and-blood volunteers who worked phones, went door-to-door, person-to-person, eye-to-eye, and a mixture of new marketing techniques along with old-school, Chicago-style, street-level politics was  eventually the winner.

Though we can say that social media  definitely has helped the elections, we can also definitely say that  social media did not create those votes. Social media acted as a messenger to find out eligible voters, who otherwise would not have existed, by highlighting the importance of the election and the candidate himself. It is difficult to predict whether, if Barack Obama had not fought US elections, would any other president have harnessed so efficiently the power of the social media? Nevertheless he has opened a new chapter in the social media book and the  social media tool  will definitely be a great tool for all future election campaigns. A good opportunity for silicon valley companies to innovate new features for social media tools.


Here is a video of Night of Obama's Election in 2008

Ambassador Muhamed "mo"Sacirbey provides analysis during night long coverage of 2008 US Presidential elections. The implications of Obama's election as well as the campaign that brought out the stereotyping of Muslims in particular and the global political situation more broadly. Unprecedented: The 2000 Presidential Election

Here George Osborne Talks about Internet and Social Media Blogs. The main topic discussed in the video is the influence of internet and social media on politics and governments. Osborne says that the Internet and social media brings about a democratized for of communication.

You can check more of my selected videos on my Web TV

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