As stated by many before me; when it boils down to it, a presidential election is just a well funded popularity contest. In the past eight years, two things have effected the ways in which elections are carried out. Firstly this is seen in the way we consume our entertainment. Intrusive celebrity magazines and reality television programmes offer the viewer a guided tour of peoples lives that were at one point considered off limits. The second game changer was social media. Those who could use it succeeded and those who couldn’t looked archaic and out of touch.
Barack Obama knew the power of social media and used it to his advantage. It has been observed that he adopted a “crawl, walk, run method” of social media. This involves firstly getting online, adding and building content, attracting and getting involved with online influences such as advertising and bloggers and then finally engaging and connecting with your community. In 2008 Obama managed to gather roughly 5 million followers on social media. These followers spread the Obama message, raising awareness and funding for the campaign. The fact is that Obama, though not a product, is a brand. Social media allowed him to embody the same strengths associated with any strong brand image. A strong brand will evoke powerful emotions and develop positive connotations, allowing the brand to differentiate itself from the competition.
Social media helped Obama to strengthen his own image but also to weaken the image of the competition by comparison as they struggle to use social media in such a suave fashion.
The use of social media in 2008 made Obama seem foward thinking and well polished, everything mccain was not.
Social media is a communication device which is classless, accepted by all.Now four years on Obama’s use of social media makes him appear amiable, well connected and down to earth, everything that Romney is not:
Romney is admittedly a much more savvy user of social media than McCain was but he seems to undermine the power it has to spread messages which are both positive and negative. Obama is seen to engage in the kind of activity that can become good viral fodder, boosting his image as an endearingly normal man.
He also, on the other hand, became sensationalised with celebrities rushing to fill their own social media networks with adulation and praise for the ‘Obama revolution of change’. Obama became symbolic of social change all over the world. Social media helped build him to almost mythical heights which only became more unobtainable as it spread virally.
Four years on and now Obama has become an easy target for republican attack, made vulnerable when he didn’t live up to the unobtainable dream he came to represent. Social media should be used carefully and not just as a megaphone to attract attention as a quick fix. It can work for or against you but either way it really works. Obama is still head of social media in this years election but should be aware that just as every fan on a Facebook brand page does not equal a sale, every follower of the Obama campaign does not equal a vote.