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2012: The first social election

Obama’s post-victory photo posted on Twitter was retweeted over 700,000 times overnight, breaking records in social media history. Numerous news outlets have followed this strategy already, but the increasing importance of social media in any marketing and PR campaign cannot be understated.
A seasoned veteran of the social media sphere, Obama currently boasts over 22M followers on his Twitter account (versus Mitt Romney’s 1.7M), but his focus on social media as an important channel did not begin during this campaign. In 2008, the then Senator of Illinois utilized social media to target the technologically-centric 30 and younger demographic to garner viral support (one video of an ardent supporter received over 25M views after it was posted in 2007).
Back then, Obama’s social strategy targeted a niche audience, but social media is no longer just for early adopters. 98% of the online population is on social media, which means that anyone targeting the general population must consider the social channel. 88% of adult social media users are registered voters, and 94% of voting-age social media users who see a political message online watch the entire thing – a third of those go on to share the message with at least 130 friends.

Knowing that context, it’s less surprising that four years later, Obama’s team is responsible for defining what’s now known as the first Social Election. CNN tracked the election live in real-time, showing the breakdown of gender, age, and political trends. According to the site, over half of users between 18-34 were Obama supporters, and the majority of Democrat-leaning conversations from women.
The mainstream appeal of connecting with others on social networks has permeated every industry and interest group. In the past years, we’ve seen it used to power revolutions in the Middle East, provide real time updates on natural disasters, like the devastating effects of Hurricane Sandy, and take down a large car insurance company.
For companies, the ability to connect with customers and learn about them at such a granular level is unprecedented – and ignoring this opportunity is near-reprehensible. 100% of the Fortune 500 will participate in social media this year. As one of the most powerful new communications paradigms of our time, social media is bound to influence our political elections and your own marketing campaigns for years to come.

Clara Shih

A pioneer in the social media industry, Clara developed the first social business application in 2007. Her latest book, The Social Business Imperative, is a Wall Street Journal-featured bestseller. She is a member of the Starbucks board of directors.

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