It`s the network, stupid! Social media in election campaigns.

Labels: , , , , , , , | 0 comments»

"Were it not for the Internet, Barack Obama would not be president. Were it not for the Internet, Barack Obama would not have been the nominee."
Ariana Huffington

Barack Obama`s 2008 election campaign was the first one ever to embrace the power of social media. In fact, his online campaign was seen as a major part of his success. Obama`s election was one in which the world felt involved. He was using a simple bottom up strategy, heavily relying on the millions of small donations he got online instead of getting funded by traditional party elites (like Hillary Clinton). Thus he was able to raise the record sum of $ 270 Million for the campaign. Obama`s team startet building up mailinglists of supporters at a very early stage, lists they could later come back to. They built a database of 3 million mobile numbers by promising that in return, supporters would get campaign news before the media. Obama didn`t use the new media as an addition to his traditional campaign, he made it core. He was particularly relying on social media networks like facebook, myspace, twitter and youtube. Eventually he had over 800.000 followers on facebook (McCain: 130.000) and 13.000 youtube-subscribers (McCain: 5.000). He had and even came up with his own network,, using a neighbour-to-neighbour tool, empowering individuals by enabling them to find out where to canvass and encourage voters. This resulted in a whole new level of engagement, volunteer participation and feedback. It made Obama supporters feel like a strong, tight-knit community. He also understood the power of viral videos and brought the element of fun into political campaigning. For example, the "I got a crush on Obama" song has been watched by 16 million people.

Since Obama`s striking campaign, everyone tries to copy it, but not always with good results. During the German general elections in 2009, Chancellor Angela Merkel made a fool out of herself producing a vidcast, where everyone could see how uncomfortable she was. The online activities where planned poorly and not much in advance, thus they completely backfired. Something very similar could happen during the UK elections. Watch this video of Gordon Brown introducing the Liberal`s youtube channel.

He clearly has no idea what he`s talking about and has been fed every word of this announcement. However, Gordon Brown is not the attacker in this election. It`s Tory candidate David Cameron who really needs to mobilize people to vote for him. Social media might be Cameron`s biggest chance to distance himself from Gordon Brown. He`s younger and might therefore be more appealing to young voters, that`s why he needs to approach them where they spend their time - online. Facebook has 23 million British users - half of all eligible voters are social networkers, sharing and seeking recommendations among peers rather than trusting broadcast messages. So far, Tory candidate David Cameron seems pretty comfortable with new media. is an example of the Tories using social media to galvanise activists, very similar to the way Obama did. Cameron has also reached out to niche websites such as Mumsnet. The Conservatives need the social web to help create a positive, reassuring buzz around them.

On the other hand, the internet`s hard to control. Especially when it comes to elections, poisonous negative campaigns can downgrade a candidate`s image. When you google David Cameron, one of the first results to appear is, a website that shows nothing but spoofs on a Conservative poster campaign featuring an apparently airbrushed David Cameron. However, candidates need to embrace new media in general, not only the beneficial parts. For believers of the theorie "All PR is good PR", the huge amount of traffic going on on the site may actually be positive for Cameron, because it provides him with extra coverage. In the end, it`s the viral concept, the element of fun, where European politicians can really learn from Obama.
One way or another, social media is the future of political campaigning. It gives politicians the unique opportunity to directly address their voters, truly engage them and get immediate feedback.

Plouffe, David (2009): The Audacity to Win. The inside story and lessons of Barack Obama`s historic victory. New York: Viking Adult.

0 Responses to "It`s the network, stupid! Social media in election campaigns." (Leave A Comment)

Post a Comment