Social Media and the 2012 Election: Can engagement affect voter turnout?

With just 48 days until the 2012 Presidential Election, there is a fight to the finish for the candidates to reach voters on social media sites. While some candidates are going as far as to pay influencers to follow them on Twitter,  the most influential social media campaigns revolve around how much engagement the candidates are actually having with their supporters online, not just number of fans and followers.

Photo courtesy of by Vectorportal

To the Left

While Obama may not have been able to predict the explosion of social media, he chose well when he hired Chris Hughes to create his campaign website. Hughes, a co-founder of Facebook, left the social media giant in 2007 to run Obama’s social media campaign and many say helped Obama to win the presidency. However, a lot has changed since the 2008 election. “There was a lot of talk post-’08 about it being the social media election,” says Michael Slaby, chief integration and innovation officer for the Obama campaign. “But the reality is, Twitter launched during the last campaign and Facebook had less than 100 million users. We were at the very beginning of what it meant to be social.”

Which brings us to 2012 and Obama’s second campaign for president in which he naturally has more experience in engaging with his fans and followers online.  “A new study of how the campaigns are using digital tools to talk directly with voters-bypassing the filter of traditional media-finds that the Obama campaign posted nearly four times as much content as the Romney campaign and was active on nearly twice as many platforms.”

To the Right

While Mitt Romney has had a lot less time to build up a following, he has been able to amass an impressive following on social media sites. As of about a month ago, Romney had 1,579,476 people talking about his Facebook page compared with 1,354,550 for President Barack Obama’s page. Interestingly enough, this means that despite Obama having an almost 7-to-1 advantage in total fans over Romney, more fans were actually engaging with content that Romney was sharing online.

Who wins?

If we look at total message output alone, Obama wins easily with a total of  558 shares  over Romney’s  during a 2-week period this summer, but we all know,  it’s not conversations that win elections, it’s getting those fans and followers to the voting booths.

If you were running for President of the United States, what kind of social media campaign would you run? What opportunities do you think the candidates are missing out on?

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