During the 2008 presidential elections, Barack Obama made waves (and ultimately won the presidency) by enlisting the grassroots support of voters. What made it all the more remarkable at the time was that much of the campaign’s grassroots action took place online, in the context of social media.
So it comes as no surprise that the 2012 presidential elections would continue the trend. According to Fox News, political parties are increasingly recognizing the importance of social media within their campaigns. Both Republicans and Democrats have opened up their conventions and debates to be live-streamed on the internet, hired full-time bloggers and teams of people whose only jobs are to engage with voters via social media channels.
To put some perspective on how much social media channels have grown in importance since the last presidential elections, consider this: according to Twitter, the number of tweets sent on Election Day 2008 was “equal to about six minutes worth of tweets today.” Like businesses, politicians stand to reap huge rewards from social media—that is, if they manage to keep a handle on the conversation. With the help of social media, politicians (like businesses) are able to reach more people and, in circumventing traditional media, they are able to do so without compromising their messages. But social media is a live wire, and if businesses and politicians aren’t on their game, they also stand to get burned (a la #McDStories).
It remains to be seen which party manages to finesse social media to greater advantage, but either way, new media will play a role in deciding the next president of the United States. The good news for businesses is that, no matter how much political activity is taking place on social media channels, businesses won’t be priced out of social media they way they will with traditional media. Traditional media is finite, while digital media is unlimited.