Social and Anti-Social Media

4798On election night, it became the most re-tweeted photo in the history of social media: a picture of President Obama hugging his wife, Michelle.

A news feed of President Obama participating in early voting on Oct. 25, 2012 in Chicago.

But the dissemination of that iconic image is only the tip of a far larger iceberg that sank Mitt Romney. Yes, demographics helped Obama beat him. But so did the changing landscape of media consumption. The very groups -- young women, Hispanics, African Americans, Asian-Americans -- that made the difference are among the fastest adopters of social and mobile media.

The Obama campaign understood and rode this convergence of demographics and media, even as Karl Rove spent $300 million on television advertising that helped garner nearly two-thirds of white males only to find himself, to his everlasting surprise, on the losing side of the national election.

Republicans may lament that this is not their father's country but more to the point this is not their father's marketing either. Irreversible change in the country's demography collided with irresistible change in the consumption of media. While older white males get their information from television the people who made the difference are on Twitter, Tumblr and smart phones generally. They may even be making decisions about politics differently than their predecessors and there will only be more of them entering the market and the electorate.

In 2008, much of the after-action analysis of social media was of the "gee-whiz" variety -- Obama outperformed McCain in this new medium! -- yet the precise effect was not exactly clear, other than that it helped win over younger voters. It relied, to a large extent, on sheer volume. The Obama team out-staffed, out-emailed and simply swamped the McCain effort with dozens as many Twitter followers and 400 percent more followers on Facebook.

But the Obama effort in 2008 built more than buzz; it created conversions, according to academic research performed by Jennifer Aaker, a business professor at Stanford, along with researcher Victoria Chang. The campaign built 5 million supporters on social networks, had 2.5 million followers on Facebook, and 50 million viewers watched 14 million hours of video on YouTube, which was then pretty new. This translated into huge offline results: 230,000 events and $639 million raised from 3 million donors. On Election Day, every supporter with a mobile phone number the Obama campaign had in its database got three text message reminders to vote. Obama won by more than 8 million votes.


Source: The New York Times | RICHARD PARKER
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