The 2008 election saw a dramatic change in the traditional campaign strategies. The new media platforms and technologies were exploited readily for the first time, with much success. Barrack Obama’s success didn’t just come from the success of his campaign but the successful advertising and involvement of his campaign. This, the first campaign to access voters through social networking sites, has been dubbed “The Facebook Election”.
Barack Obama’s campaign for presidency has been compared to that of John F. Kennedy. Just as Kennedy used television to market himself to the voters Obama exploited new medium to get his message out. “Were it not for the Internet, Barack Obama would not have been the nominee,” said Arianna Huffington (The Huffington Post).
Obama’s campaign changed the role of social networking in politics. While Dean’s 2004 campaign used the internet to raise money from thousands he failed to as successfully exploit the possibility of using the web to gain constituents. Obama’s 2008 campaign did exactly this. He was successful in using media and technology to his advantage in all facets of the electoral process. He used it for advertising, to gain support, to defend himself, to support arguments and to quickly and easily assess communication with his voters. He did use the social networking to raise money. Almost $160 million US was raised online, most being donations of under $200.
One of Obama’s strategic advisors was Chris Hughes, Facebook cofounder. It is Hughes who is commended as the architect to the Obama online campaign. His Facebook page had thousand of “likes” and his twitter address had thousands of followers. He used phone messaging tactics, online advertising, and created YouTube videos. Online support groups were established and fan threads were followed. In comparison his 72 year old counterpart McCain was never techno-literate.
The then 47 year old had a “powerful techno-demographic appeal” (US NEWS) that proved invaluable to him in the campaign. Exit polls revealed that Obama had won nearly 70 percent of the vote among Americans under age 25. The power was in the fact that everyone could participate. And everyone could participate from the comfort of their own houses and bedrooms. And as is the way with the internet it was easy to feel involved and onboard.
The Facebook election was revolutionary in its use of social networking and exploiting all areas of online participation. Obama’s success was greatly because of the support he gained from the youth of America, and his connection with them was through the technology they were already comfortable with. He created a following of passive-assertive followers, because the technology allowed everyone to be involved without having to get up to get involved.