The debates were a tossup. The campaign ads were fairly even. The negatives of each candidate were well-highlighted by each opponent. In 2008, two things contributed to the easy victory that President Barack Obama had over John McCain.
The Obama campaign had a stranglehold on ideas and spreading them through social media.
The first, of course, was what ended up winning it for him, but the second was a contributing factor. Social media was still in its infancy 4 years ago in that most who were on it were still geeks and young people. Things are different, today. The vast majority of Americans are on some sort of social network, get their news from social news sites, or at the very least get exposed to what’s happening on social media through coverage on traditional media.
Obama’s team dominated social media in 2008. With 4 years of practice and a more-vocal following embedded on sites like Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, and Digg, it’s very likely that they will expand on that domination this year.
The difference is in the ideas. Some of the concepts that the President won on back then have not worked out the way he planned. Healthcare reform was to be his crowning achievement in his first term and enough to push him through easily to a second term, but recent polls in the all-important swing states show support of Obamacare is fading.
The economy was another element that is still up for debate. Some of his statements in the early days of his term may come back to haunt him as he has been unable (so far) to fulfill the promises. This is the part where social media can hurt; it’s hard to escape videos like this one:
That challenge may highlight the potential negatives that Obama faces through social media, but it also points to the fact that the GOP has yet to come up with a solid plan for social media. This video could be very damaging and appeared on popular sites like Digg and Breitbart, but it still has far-fewer views than most of the pro-Obama videos.
At this stage, Ron Paul is the only GOP candidate who has proven successful on social media. An argument could be made that the candidate who “never had a chance” has been able to maintain poise and positioning in the contest because of his campaign’s (and more importantly, his followers’) abilities to promote his ideas on social media.
Will any of the other candidates recognize their flaw in relying solely on television and robo-calls in to make a difference in the primaries? Will the eventual nominee have the foresight to put more effort into social media than to post Tweets and grow their Facebook page?
Does the GOP stand a chance against a well-tuned social media machine like Obama’s?