The remarkable increase in voter engagement in the last presidential elections in the U.S. was a social movement attributed to factors other than innovative campaigns, but I guess no one can deny the leading role played by the Internet.
Interactive media offered alternatives to politicians’ traditional media spending and communication strategy. White House hopefuls utilised the channels presented by this medium to popularise their philosophy, spread news, track voter interest, be in touch with voters and organise communities.
The Internet – specifically the social web – helped foster a vocal, active citizenry in the US elections, and a highly aware international public keeping a critical eye on the whole affair. Voters not only voiced their opinions via the Net, but they also created a lot of political content on a national and even international level. Social networks streamed politically related entertainment, data and interactive content throughout the web in massive quantities. YouChoose’08 and VideoYourVote — election channels that measure candidate support by user participation — were hosted by YouTube. And who can forget Palin and SNL ?
Obama was the clear winner in the realm of social media. He was able to flow within this space to reach audiences that were normally disregarded by traditional media; his campaign utilised social sites to build voters communities that practiced Obama activism both on and offline. Some interesting facts:
- On Facebook, Obama has about 4 million supporters and McCain has 583,000
- On Twitter, Obama has about 144,000 followers (a social site for which he himself, apparently, actively participates) and McCain has a little over 5,000
- Obama has more than 1 million MySpace “friends”. His campaign also has a database of almost 13 million supporters and their e-mail addresses.
- Obama hired Facebook founder Chris Hughes for his campaign team and developed My.BarackObama.com. It had 850,000+ members who planned 50,000+ events with the help of the site’s innovative tools, which contributed to his record-breaking $600 million in fund-raising.
- An iPhone application and in-game ads (e.g. “Obama for President” billboard in the Xbox 360 racing game Burnout Paradise) were part of Obama’s interactive media repertoire.
- Video streaming increased 155 percent from July to August on My.BarackObama.com, according to Nielsen Online, reaching 1.3 million views. The site also saw a 173 percent increase in unique video viewers in the same time frame. The same metrics for the McCain site shows increases by merely 16 and 5 percent, respectively.
- “Yes We Can” and the “Obama Girl” music videos each drew 10 million views in YouTube.
- During the campaign, the Obama operation garnered approximately 13 million e-mail addresses, a million sign-ups for the Obama camp’s text-messaging service, 2 million participants in the campaign’s proprietary social network on MyBarackObama.com, and 5 million supporters on more than 15 other social networking sites
- Both Obama and McCain invested greatly in search engine optimisation in their online strategies. AdGooRoo released a recent study analyzing the high stakes search campaigns of both candidates. The results:
- Obama-related sites receive more than five times the amount of traffic than McCain-related (22 million versus 3.5 million visitors).
- Pro-Obama websites are 57% more popular than pro-McCain, but the Republican nominee receives 11 percent more traffic from websites not affiliated with his campaign.
- In terms of search marketing, McCain has a slight advantage in keyword selection, but Obama wins in targeting topical keywords, such as “lipstick” and “Paulson”.
- The Obama site wins in natural search rankings: McCain is seen on Google’s front page for 67 keywords, while Obama ranks for 117.
Although Obama received a lot of praise for his campaign’s innovative use of the Net, a lot were still wondering before November 4, 2008 whether all these investments on search and social media campaigns would deliver the goods. The answer is now clear as the ROI was splashed on print, TV and computer screens all across the world on January 20, 2009, the day Obama was inaugurated as the 44th President of the United States of America.