Social Networks Gear Up for Elections in 2012

Social Networks Gear Up for Elections in 2012

Online social networks are playing key roles in political campaigns as politicians attempt to jump ahead in next year’s primaries, and continue the momentum into the presidential election.

Is This Thing On?, or ITTO, is our Wednesday column showing how everyday people use technology in unexpected ways.

Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney established social network MyMitt on the candidate’s website and nearly 100,000 supporters have signed on to post updates, pictures, blogs, links and videos. Other Republican challengers, too, are bolstering their social networks in order to go head-to-head with presumptive Democratic nominee Barack Obama, who blazed the social media trail in 2008.

In 2008, Obama’s My.BarackObama.Com provided more than two million enthusiastic supporters with a network to write blog posts, start or join interest groups, organize house parties and initiate their own fundraisers, which totaled $70 million in contributions. Obama’s fledgling site proved that both for organizational and fundraising goals, social media can be a golden campaign ticket.

Gearing up for 2012, Obama’s re-election campaign is welcoming its one millionth individual donor, tracking its 23 million-strong Facebook following and spending millions to enhance the already-proven campaign machine.

MyMitt shows the competition may be up to taking on Obama’s social media machine, however, and the Republican
Party will likely continue to mobilize their social network faithful.

Just a couple thousand passionate Romney supporters generated 37,000 calls on October 15, the National Call Day for volunteers, underscoring the devotion and productivity of those who join social networks.

Zac Moffatt, the campaign’s digital director, says the call-day effort showed the Romney operation is able to activate volunteers from all 50 states. Moffatt’s firm, Targeted Victory, gained recognition for managing the online operations for Republican candidates like Marco Rubio in 2010.

Indeed, politicos across the spectrum are standing up and taking notice of social media’s potential impact, which may replace television ads or robo-telephone calls as the next tools of choice in the political landscape.

Campaign strategists use social networks both to extend their national reach, and also to target special interest groups and populations, a strategy that has previously worked in Hispanic populations to generate support for particular initiatives.

The Hispanic Institute, understanding that 87 percent of English-speaking U.S. Hispanics owned a cell phone, as opposed to 80 percent of non-Hispanic whites, rallied this population to support immigration reform in states across the nation and is credited with increasing attendance and enthusiasm.

Social networks continue to support candidates even after they are elected. President Barack Obama continues to use campaign social networks, as well as other social media, to maintain connections with supporters and reach out to new ones.

For example, Obama rolled out a “Tweet for Jobs” tool, making it easy for people to address Republican lawmakers in 140 characters or less, even if they aren’t Twitter-savvy or politically aware, to support his recent Employment Bill.

The Twitter tool lets people can choose from a menu of prewritten tweets to send. For example, “I’m one of your constituents, and I’m urging you to pass the American Jobs Act now to strengthen our economy. #passthebill.”

Now that the 2012 U.S. elections are gaining momentum with the first primary just a few months away, battle-tested mobile networks are expanding as they gear up to emerge as a powerful force in the political arena.

For the Grand Old Party’s primaries, Romney’s MyMitt may be the first and most coherent social network, but it won’t likely be the last. In today’s age, when politics aren’t just local but increasingly social, candidates have to be in the social network game to win the top prize.

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