2012 presidential hopefuls may have differing opinions on most issues, but there’s at least one thing they can all agree on: the importance of social media to their campaign.
Already, presidential candidates for next year’s election have put social media to use. President Obama announced his reelection campaign with a digital video. Mitt Romney announced his candidacy via Twitter. Tim Pawlenty, who has since dropped out, announced his intentions to run on Facebook. And with the election still fifteen months away, we’re just getting started.
President Obama’s 2008 victory has been largely attributed to his success in the online sphere. He raised money online, organized grassroots campaign events over Facebook, and used YouTube videos for free advertisement. His online success did not go unnoticed, and this time around, Republicans are already on board with the Internet-based strategy. Already, Republican candidates Romney, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Herman Cain, and Ron Paul all have Twitter accounts. They use them to connect with viewers in a personal manner, and to keep them informed about campaign news.
Mitt Romney’s online director, Zac Moffatt, has this to say about the role of social media in the election: "You have to take your message to the places where people are consuming content and spending their time. We have to recognize that people have choices and you have to reach them where they are, and on their terms." And right now, people’s “terms” certainly lie in social media. The numbers prove this point quite clearly. Facebook has roughly 750 million users. Twitter is growing by around 600,000 users per day. Individual YouTube videos have been watched as many as 500 million times.
Though it is an extremely effective tool when used correctly, social media can be disastrous when things go wrong. For example, on Newt Gingrich’s presidential exploratory website, he posted a picture of a crowd waving flags, ostensibly at him. Yet, later, it was discovered that the picture was actually a stock photo which has years ago been used by the late Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy. Twitter exploded with the news, and it generated much negative press for Gingrich. Additionally, Twitter and Facebook are prone to fake accounts and parodies, which can also generate negativity towards candidates.
Still, despite its potential drawbacks, 2012 Presidential hopefuls are more ready and willing than ever to implement social media campaign strategies. President Obama has a head start, though: his Twitter account already has over 9 million followers. Do you think anyone else can catch up? And how important do you think social media will be in the election? Sound off below. And for more social media news, check out Hudson Horizons.