The effect of social media in presidential campaign

How Obama is effectively using social media for his presidency against Romney

In today’s world, information is transmitted instantly and interactively through the numerous social media platforms on the Internet. Social media can reach millions of young and eligible voters in an efficient and cost effective way. Before Obama’s campaign in 2008, radio and TV were the main channels of communication to the voters. The numbers and ages of the people that they were able to reach were limited, and often younger voters were disconnected. U.S. Census Data reported that approximately two million more young Americans between the ages of 18-30 voted in the 2008 presidential elections in comparison to the 2004 election [8].

Obama’s frontier in social media; how it was used efficiently compared to other competitors

The total number of clicks tallied for Cost Per Click (CPC) advertising is relatively close from one candidate to another. On average, Romney spent about $1.32 per visitor whereas Obama spent about $1.15. Yet, according to SEO Vote 2012[1], president Obama’s online advertising campaigns paid out about ten thousand dollars more in advertising fees than Mitt Romney’s. This is because more people were clicking on Obama’s ads than on Romney’s. Based on information from SEO Vote 2012[1], it seems that Romney’s website had very little change in the number of unique visitors, just hitting above 3.2 million. However, President Obama’s unique visits have risen from about 3 million unique visits to over 8 million between April 2012 and August 2012. “A high influx of visits over such a short period of time is likely a good indicator that more people are clicking on the ads for his website, and could be the reason behind Obama’s campaign spending more on Adwords – Google’s pay per click advertising engine. ” [2]

According to SEO Vote 2012 data, Obama’s website has 146,003 incoming links from other web domains, while Romney’s website only has 62,160[1]. ““Top rankings in the search engines are largely attributed to the number of incoming links a website has from other web domains on the Internet. Links from 3rd party websites serve as ‘votes’ in the eyes of the search engines. The more links (or votes) a website has, the more authority is assumed, therefore resulting in higher rankings in the search results pages.”” [2].

Therefore, by effectively using the ability of social networks such as facebook, twitter and youtube to “share”(ability to provide incoming link) or “like”(ability to vote a page; +1 in google+) his website, President Obama was able to maintain a high rank on google using search engine optimization (SEO).

Reddit, facebook & Twitter: faster / Interactive / Personalized (positive use social media)

The main source of the social network sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, YouTube, etc. have the potential for the followers to find about the presidential election campaign much readily and also allow individual’s opinion on the topic (as we have on our report) to be added and share amongst the peers. The use social media sites also allow the candidates to track the patterns to target specific voters who are likely to vote for their campaign. Candidates can also engage personally in the social media sites to provide timely and accurate information on their campaigns, while connecting to the voters on a more personal level.

President Obama has been active Twitter user since mid-2008, tweeting average a few tweets a day and has over 16 million followers while Mitt Romney joined twitter in mid-2009, with about half a million followers on his twitter account. For the 2012 presidential campaign, Twitter has become a real-time engagement tool for the candidates to reach large audience and eventually lead them to vote for their party “[Obama] had 4 million donors to his campaign, which is about one in 17 people who voted for him gave him money … That had never happened in American politics.” [Social media strategist Peter Fenn] President Obama’s engagement to the voters in more of a personal level has helped to persuade the voters to support and financial his campaign budget.

Obama received the national attention for participating in an “Ask Me Anything” Q&A session on a popular site, Reddit [3]. It marked a key moment for the blending of the politician and the Internet culture, with more than 200 000 users viewing the session at one time. In his strategy, Obama wanted to feel not only familiar to the voters but also wanted to be seen as a someone who understands the problems the voters face and want them to be solved. Google hangout was another medium used in the campaign where “President Obama answers questions about the State of the Union from people all over the country in a Google+ hangout, the first all-virtual interview from the White House.” [4]

Interactive, responsive body politic (how it was used against each other)

Meme, a shortening from the Greek work mi meme (to imitate), is used to convey an idea or a behavior of the culture in that period. Internet meme takes a form of image, video or hash tag (in twitter) to imitate or make a parody of the current social interaction and pop culture. Through the use of the tools such as the meme, social media has also enabled voters to respond to the candidate’s misstatements and awkward situations, which then spread like a wildfire across the Internet.

On August 30, 2012 at the GOP Convention, Clint Eastwood addressed an empty chair and questioned it as if it is U.S. President Obama, as he is the endorser of the Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney. When the “Invisible Obama” speech took a form of meme, the effect of social media was devastating. After Clint Eastwood’s “Invisible Obama” speech, a parody account, @InvisibleObama, had more than 35,000 followers by 3:00 am [5]. Parodies of the @InvisibleObama on stage with captions hit Tumbler and Twitter. As a countermeasure, the non-invisible Obama’s campaign also weighed in, tweeting “this seat’s taken” with a photo of Obama sitting in a chair affixed with a tag reading ‘The President.’ [6].

Such actions were common, to gain advantage in the social media space. On President Obama’s tumbler site, Romney’s reference to the cutting financing for PBS was addressed with a picture of Big Bird from Sesame Street with the caption “Mitt Romney’s Plan to Cut the Deficit: Fire This Guy”[7]. The impact of meme and the social media was more notable when the statement was devised from the originator. Romney’s “binder full of women” statement (on October 16th) and the meme that followed the day after had the more immediate impact, indicating the 100% peak search volume versus only 51% on the big bird when compared using the Google trends [10].

We can find that, with a click of a button, users share a news story about the candidates’ action or more notably candidate’s mistakes on Facebook, Twitter and Tumbler  “And then, [when the news story] begins to explode, eventually winding up in major newspapers, making major headlines across the country [and causes] a huge effect[s].”[9].


Since 2008, the amount of money spent on the online advertising for the presidential campaign on display advertising, email and paid search went from 22 million to 159 million dollar. Which arouses the question of if spending such a hefty price on the social media is really worth the money. With the Obama’s 2012 social media campaign, he was able to reach 21 million Twitter followers and 32 million Facebook likes (voted by the individual users) versus Mitt Romney’s 1.7 Twitter followers and 12 million Facebook likes[1]. Through the use of social media, Obama campaign was able to coordinate reminders for the important dates or share articles to convey their stance. For the President Obama, it was well worth the money as he takes seat in presidency for four more years.

Taehoon Andrew Kim


[1] 2012 Presidential Campaign SEO Friends. Rep. 2012 Eyeflow Internet Marketing, n.d. Web. 07 Nov. 2012. <>.

[2] Foerster, Chris. “2012 Presidential Election: Social Media and Internet Advertising Major
Indicators.” Yahoo! Finance. Yahoo Finance, 5 Nov. 2012. Web. 07 Nov. 2012. <http://>.

[3] President Obama. “IAmA.” I Am Barack Obama, President of the United States. Reddit,
29 Aug. 2012. Web. 07 Nov. 2012. <

[4] “President Obama’s Google Hangout.” The White House. The White House, 30 Jan. 2012. Web. 07 Nov. 2012. <>.

[5] Dale, Daniel. “Clint Eastwood’s Bizarre ‘Invisible Obama’ Speech Baffles, Wows Republicans.” Toronto Star, 31 Aug. 2012. Web. 07 Nov. 2012. <–clint-eastwood-s-bizarre-invisible-obama-speech-baffleswows-republicans>.

[6] “U.S. Election 2012.” U.S. Election 2012. Toronto Star, 31 Aug. 2012. Web. 07 Nov. 2012. <>.

[7] “Obama for America.”, 4 Oct. 2012. Web. 07 Nov. 2012. <>.

[8] “Newsroom.” Voter Turnout Increases by 5 Million in 2008 Presidential Election, U.S.
Census Bureau Reports. U.S. Census Bureau, 20 July 2009. Web. 07 Nov. 2012. <http://>.

[9] Young, Jeffrey. “Internet, Social Media Prominent in US Presidential Race.” VOA. Voice
of America, 13 Aug. 2012. Web. 07 Nov. 2012. <

[10] Google Trends. Rep. Google, n.d. Web. 07 Nov. 2012. <>.

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