The Presidential Election 2012 is now over. Like always, it has been a long, exhausting struggle between Democrats and Republicans who made use of every possible voter encouraging sentiment to win over voters. Unlike the past 56 elections, however, the 2012 election embraced a new media of direct voter engagement at a large scale: Social media. Though emotional touch points and indiscreet bullying of the opponent have always been natural parts of any branding game, this election once and for all showed the importance of social media as a campaigning tool in political branding and communication. No wonder it has been called the first Twitter election.
Social media creates a sphere for political interaction
According to a recent study by PEW, around 39% of all adult Americans have engaged in either civic or political activity on social media between 1-8 times. Quintly’s live statistics on the two candidates’ Facebook pages give you real-time indication of just how big a role social media presence is playing – even now after the election. Not just in the election as such, but also in the general lives of the American population: Pushing that “like” button on any brand’s or candidate’s page is part of the creation of your social identity. This in mind, both camps have done their best to produce content that is relatable, shareable and valuable to the identity of their fans and followers on the social networks.
How the candidates engaged
Not surprisingly, when looking at the two campaigns, Twitter and Facebook have been the top 2 social networks applied in both camps. Analysing the content, both candidates managed to tap into the very visual nature of Facebook and the very brief, precise world of Twitter, meanwhile keeping their target groups in mind. On Facebook, the candidate who stands for change and a modern approach on how to run America, made use of visuals with an Instagram-feel (filtered colours and artsy angles) on a Timeline totally aligned to the design style and tone of voice. The candidate who stands for a traditional, conservative take on politics and beliefs, used a visual identity that had a less polished and aligned feel and design style, by keeping to simple visuals stripped from the “hipster”-feel:
On Twitter, both candidates successfully reached out to voters in the same rhetoric used in the speeches and characteristic to the tone of voice of the candidate. However, experienced from the 2008 election campaign, the Obama-team showed a delicate understanding of the network when tweeting the following immediately after the much talked about Clint Eastwood chair performance:
Playing on every string
As a “brand” that needs to engage with a target group of great diversity, both camps did their best to play on every string they had at their disposal. They both took advantages of the gender differences between the networks as well. Michelle Obama and Ann Romney both have official profiles on the predominantly female network Pinterest, where they share recipes, photos picturing a happy marriage, a life in harmony and naturally also photos from the campaigns. The profiles very clearly depicts the values of the two candidates – but communicated to women by women.
Since the candidates represent two very different brands, they will of course focus their attention of different target groups. Looking at the huge social media attention Obama’s campaign has managed to arouse, one could conclude that being on the front-line of social media has been of great importance to his brand value. His voters (and devotees) have most definitely given him a lot of support through social media channels. Today alone, his victorious tweet quickly became the most RT tweet throughout the entire campaign. The Facebook update carrying the same visual and written message has now become the most liked photo on Facebook. Ever.
On such impressive numbers, it is fair to conclude that Obama did not only win the election – he won the social networks as well. Whether the professional integration of social media had a say at the ballot box is hard to determine. But building a likeable, shareable and relevant brand image will no matter what stick to people’s subconscious and make them open towards your message as a brand.