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2008 Election

PORTLAND, OR, United States – The 2008 election that put Barack Obama into power was a watershed in so many ways but perhaps most notably it defined new ways of reaching voters and catalyzing a constituency eager to see new leadership in the Oval Office.

Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign was executed in a way that took advantage of new communication methods, mainly in mobile and social media. These enabled his campaign workers to more effectively reach out to voters and volunteers and persuade them to become active participants in the campaign.

In 2008, Obama had active profiles in more than 30 social media channels. Also, and maybe more importantly, he utilized mobile phones to speak to, encourage and amp up eager fans and followers.

To pull this off, in 2008, the Obama campaign collected 3 million phone numbers in the lead up to the campaign. By announcing his choice for Vice President via text message, he pushed SMS into the forefront of his campaign’s communication strategy.

There’s a very good reason to rely upon SMS as a method for mobilizing voters and support. Traditional methods such as knocking on doors and computerized calls (called robo-calls) to traditional phones can cost in upwards of $20-30 per vote. Alternatively, SMS messaging is cheap, fast and efficient.

Another strategy developed by the Democrat campaign in 2008 was the Barack Obama smartphone application, which informed users on upcoming appearances, photos, video and messages from the candidate.

Fast forward to 2012

With the proliferation of smartphones in the United States in 2012, where some 40% of Americans are toting smartphones these days, mobile apps and even text messaging will be even more of a force for campaigns.

Just as in the 2008 election, Barack Obama’s campaign is the most forward thinking, judging by the mobile optimized site the campaign has in place.

At this point, hardly any of the Republican candidates who are locked in activity surrounding the primary election have embraced their mobile campaigns. Of the top three front runners, including Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum, only Romney has a mobile-optimized website.

Social media alive and well in 2012 campaigning

In an online age where almost 82% of American adults receive their news online, which candidate will win the social media fight?

Since 2008, a lot has changed in the world of online social media.  Looking at Facebook: in 2008, there were 44.3 million Facebook users, now there are more than 143 million. Twitter’s numbers tell a similar tale: in 2008, there were 3.4 million tweet-talking users and now there are 24.1 million.

As a result, Americans expect their candidates to be active online, as Mashable reports, 62% of Americans believe candidates should have an active social media presence. 

So, which candidates have the biggest following online? Let’s look at Twitter numbers to compare.  Barack Obama has 12.3 million followers whereas Newt Gingrich as 1.4 million. Looking more at the Republican side, Mitt Romney has nearly 308,000 followers on Twitter; Ron Paul has 221,400 followers and Rick Santorum closes out with 102,000.

Looking ahead

As the numbers speak, it’s obvious that the trend in how Americans consume news is translating into a new reality where candidates must operate in two worlds. The first being traditional communication, which means kissing babies, holding press conferences and making stump speeches.

However, a second medium of social networking and mobile phone marketing has now emerged as a new way to attract voters. As the 2012 starts to heat up going into Spring, Republican candidates will likely mimic Obama’s successful campaign of 2008. 

Are you up for engaging with candidates via mobile messaging and social networking? 

Sound off below.

Image credit: debaird and Tony the Misfit