The Politics Of Twitter: A Look At How Social Media Won The Election

Did you know that in 2007 when Barack Obama announced he was running for President, Twitter had less than 3 million registered users, and the first major “smartphone”, the iPhone was just being released? Compare that to today – nearly half of all U.S. adults own a smartphone or tablet and Twitter is up to a staggering 500 million users! Social media offers an outlet for people to share their thoughts,  converse with friends, show pictures – and it is essentially the biggest means for human connection. During the election, social media became a real-time discussion tool for Americans to share their thoughts, emotions, and opinions. Below, we will look and see the role social networks played and just how effective social media was during the 2012 election.

There are many major social networks out there; however the two that seemed to play the largest role in the election were Twitter and Facebook. Did you know that these two networks alone allow for reach of 80% of internet users? Do you know who were well aware of this fact and took advantage of it? The Democrats – heres how:

8 to 1 Tweet Ratio In Favor Of The Democrats 

Over the course of the election, there were two major political parties competing – each backed by millions of dollars from donations. However, one party had recruited a team of technologists, and studied how politicians could connect with the American people through social media. Advantage Democrats. The Democrats “out-tweeted” The Republicans by 8 to 1. Which is a staggering margin considering the vast amount of Americans who are online. Their efforts clearly went rewarded, below is a graph showing the Twitter mentions leading up to the election. Spot an advantage?

Analyze Undecided Voters 

Social media can also be used as a means for analyzing the effect that a particular campaign has on undecided voters. Simply by breaking down the numbers, and looking at something as simple as the increased number of likes on Facebook for one candidate over another. The Democrats used the data available to them to their advantage. As a result, they ran a more “intelligent” campaign. They set up a rather complex feedback system online to mock scenarios on potential voters. This data was gathered and analyzed to properly tailor the campaign down the final stretches. This information proved to be critical, as many of the “battle ground” states were won with the slimmest of margins.

Mobilize Voters

People have a tendency to do as their friends and peers do. As a result, it was nearly impossible to remain indifferent to politics online this past election season. The social media outlets provide a chance for everyone to voice their opinions, and take their crack at being a political pundit. As a result, social media clearly motivated people to vote whether in support of one candidate or in spite of another. People turned to social media to voice their frustrations about the long lines at the polls, or (on the contrary) brag about how quick their experience was. There were even apps available let potential voters get connected to find their polling place! Clearly the internet made voting easy and accessible for voters.

Impact On Future Elections

The technological advances from 2008 to 2012 were staggering. It’s hard to imagine what the political landscape will look like online come the 2016 election. One thing is for sure – there is a clear advantage to reaching people directly as evidenced by this past election season. As time spent online with social networking sites increases, its emergence as a primary communication channel for users is its hallmark. It will be interesting to see how the next candidates approach social media in the future.

Further proof that the political landscape is turning to social media, President Obama thanked his support after winning the election, not with a TV speech but a simple tweet.

“We’re all in this together. That’s how we campaigned, and that’s who we are. Thank you,”

That tweet alone sums up how President Barack Obama and the Democrats used social media to win the 2012 presidential election. The age of social media is upon us.

This article was written by P.J. Leimgruber – President of Rank Executives, an SEO and Social Marketing Agency based out of Orlando, FL and Palo Alto, CA.


  1. says

    Our country’s general election has just ended last month. All political parties were involved in using social media to campaign for their respective parties. As citizens of this country, we depends on social media to read news published by these political parties on their social media to get the most updated, trust worthy and genuine information and news because we cannot trust the media(newspapers, radio and TVs) controlled by the government anymore. To say using social media to win an election is still too soon to be happening here in my country as there are almost half of the population is still without internet access and possibly don’t even know what social media is. These people are still depending on pro government newspapers, radios and TVs to get news that are mostly bias. However, like you’ve said, the age of social media is upon us, and all this country needs is only time.

  2. says

    I agree with you that facebook and twitter have lots of influence not just on ordinary people but also to elite people. It serves as a tool not only for business purposes but like you said, it has also been used in politics. And aside from this social media sites, pinterest and google plus are coming along their way and trying to catch up with FB and twitter.