With President Barack Obama’s campaign going door-to-door in his efforts for re-election this year, it is also penetrating social media feeds and people are taking notice.
Josh Gordon, director of client services and communications at the Karcher Group, a social media management company based in North Canton, Ohio, said the purpose of social media is to create communities and amplify a message. This is especially important to any political enterprise, he said, especially Obama and presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney.
“It doesn’t matter what channel (the message) goes through,” Gordon said. “Is it consistent across all the channels you communicate through? Not just social media, but is it the same offline?
“With Obama’s campaign, you really see that. And I think that’s a testament to how he is using social media effectively.”
Obama kicked off his re-election campaign Saturday at the Schottenstein Center to a group of about 14,000 people, and some attendees said they found social media use within the campaign and at the rally to be especially relevant.
“It’s the best way to reach a large amount of people,” said Alicia Green, a Wright State University alumna who traveled from Dayton to see Obama at OSU.
At the rally, campaign members used iPads to sign supporters up to help with campaign outreach. Attendees could also “check in” at the rally on Foursquare, a geolocation application that connects to other social networks.
Domonique Paige, a ’99 OSU alumna, also attended the rally and said she uses Facebook to share messages about the campaign.
“I’ve been posting pictures and facts, I’ve been doing it for a year or so,” Paige said. “Most people don’t read the newspaper anymore, they go to Facebook and social media for their information.”
A “photo booth” was set up at the rally where attendees could have their picture taken in front of Obama campaign signs with a dry-erase board answering why they are “in” for Obama, and were asked to tag Obama for America-Ohio on Facebook.
Obama’s campaign also has a presence on Instagram, a photo sharing application for iPhone and Android, and used examples of this – as well as Facebook and Tumblr – during promotional videos played before Obama’s remarks at the rally.
Gordon, a registered Independent, said Obama and his campaign use effective communication, citing an infographic on Obama’s Facebook page titled “The Life of Julia.” The idea of the infographic is to follow “Julia” from childhood to retirement to see how Obama’s policies impact women. This is then juxtaposed to what Romney’s policies would do in the same scenario.
“You’ll see this infographic, but in a totally different write up on Facebook, and you’ll see the same infographic in a completely different write up on Google+,” Gordon said. “The content is the same, the idea is the same, but it’s communicated in a way that’s effective for the channel. To me, that’s what Obama’s campaign does well.”
Ryan Williams, spokesman for the Romney campaign, disputed the “Life of Julia” graphic.
“This idea that people depend upon governments their entire lives … is downright foolish,” Williams said.
When it comes to Romney’s social media presence, he does a good job of posting consistently and using Instagram, Gordon said.
“You see behind-the-scenes pictures of volunteers making calls,” Gordon said. “Not everything has to be this grandiose thing. (Romney) understands that.”
Considering Romney’s business background, Gordon said that a lack of presence on LinkedIn, a business social networking site, is a “big miss.”
“Romney’s campaign is so much about business … (LinkedIn) is kind of the perfect mashup of business and social crowd sourcing,” Gordon said. “It’s a really big missed opportunity.”
Williams said their goal is to provide more substantive content and to engage with supporters.
Statistics from 2012Twit.com have shown that Romney’s Twitter account has received more retweets than Obama’s in recent weeks, Williams said.
“Mitt Romney’s has average 670 retweets per tweet,” Williams said. “Barack Obama’s has average 408 retweets per tweet.”
Gordon said it is hard to compare Obama and Romney’s social media presence by numbers and statistics.
“It’s kind of hard to do that because Obama’s been in market, so to speak, for five years, if you count the campaign before the last election as well,” Gordon said.
Williams acknowledged that Obama has had a head start on campaigning considering his time in office and 2008 campaign.
“We’re ramping up our campaign,” Williams said. “Mrs. Romney has a Twitter and Facebook account, Romney’s sons are active on Twitter … some of our staff are also active.”
Gordon said his only critique of Obama’s social media use is in regard to requesting donations.
“People aren’t accustomed to that type of messaging within Twitter and Facebook,” Gordon said. “To get constantly hit over the head with the idea of donating can be frustrating and can turn off some folks.”
Gordon said Obama’s social media campaign really comes down to retail politics.
“(Obama) takes retail politics in its traditional sense of hand shaking and baby kissing, and translates it extremely well to social media because he understands how to build community, how to be local to everybody,” Gordon said. “And the way the campaign approaches social media, does that.”
Extending the same ideas, while reinforcing the message and driving it home, should be the goal of political social media use, Gordon said.
“That’s what politics, that’s what advertising, marketing, communications, is all about,” Gordon said. “And it’s sort of amazing to me that a (social media) campaign can be so bad at it.”