Friday, June 17, 2011

How Will Social Media Impact the 2012 Presidential Election?


COMMENTARY | The 2012 presidential election race is fast approaching and the top candidates are emerging from both parties.

During the 2008 election, we saw the proliferation of social media in politics. Then-Senator Barack Obama was the trail blazer utilizing social media websites like Facebook to connect with voters. Obama also recruited savvy tech moguls to spearhead his social media campaign. As a result the Obama campaign was able to mobilize young voters, who for many were first time voters.

The Obama administration is taking it one step further in preparation for the 2012 election by appointing Jesse Lee, Director of Progressive Media & Online Response. Lee will be responsible for coordinating rapid response to negative stories and fostering relations with the online community, according to the Huffington Post . The move will likely give President Obama a leg up in terms of online engagement with voters.

2012 Candidates Embracing Social Media

Candidates running in the 2012 election are jumping on the bandwagon and embracing social media. Former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty (R) announced his bid for president by releasing a video on YouTube.

Presidential candidate Pawlenty stated, he unlike President Obama '" has the courage to face America's challenges. Mitt Romney posted a tweet announcing his candidacy, while President Obama sent a digital video to 13 million supporters who helped elect him 2008.

Candidates can no longer deny the power of online social engagement. Social media has the power to make or break campaigns. That is evident with the recent sexting scandal involving New York Congressman Anthony Weiner. Social media can be a candidate's best ally or opponent depending on how a candidate uses it to engage with others.

Candidates Play Catch Up Online

It's no doubt that social media contributed to the success of President Obama's campaign in 2008. Social media helped Obama raise awareness and create excitement around his campaign. The reality for most candidates casting their bid for the 2012 presidential election is they will have to play catch up when it comes to engaging voters online.

As social media matures, there will be an even greater need for candidates to engage with voters in more meaningful ways. For candidates who don't have a national presence, social media may be there saving grace. Candidates can engage voters online and implement a call to action through websites like Facebook and Twitter. Politicians can also produce videos for YouTube that have the potential for going viral. Candidates can also use Foursquare to "check in" while on the campaign trail. When it comes to online social engagement, candidates will have to either stay in step with the times or risk falling behind.

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