Social Media and the U.S. Election: Producing the Campaign


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slides from October 29, 2012, the second session of the course Social Media and the U.S. Election. The course is taught by Janelle Ward and hosted by the John Adams Institute in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

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Social Media and the U.S. Election: Producing the Campaign

  1. 1. Social Media andthe U.S. Election @janelle_ward
  2. 2. Today’s plan• Producing the campaign: How are political actors using social media to inform and engage citizens?• A little bit of theory plus examples: • The political communication system • A brief history of e-campaigning• Case studies: • The numbers, the strategies, lessons learned
  3. 3. Theory:The political communication system
  4. 4. Journalists/ Journalists/ Politicians/political Politicians/politicalmass mediamass media elites elites Citizens/audiences Citizens/audiences
  5. 5. Theory:The political communication system• Forces of instability: • updated laws aimed at the media/political elites • rapid advances in information & communication technologies • mutual adaptation between politicians and the media • changing relationship between politicians, the media and audiences (Blumler & Gurevitch)
  6. 6. Theory: E-campaigning research• Party Competition • Smaller parties emerge online; access to huge quantities of information w/o media interference• Power Diffusion • More participation in campaigns; political efficacy increases with more options• Institutional Adaptation • Politics tames democratic potential of the internet, exacerbates “typical” media/politician practices – (Andrew Chadwick: Internet Politics)
  7. 7. Theory: E-campaigning research• Party Competition • Third party debate (Oct. 24th) broadcast online; questions via Twitter (#AskEmThisLarry) • One million strong for Stephen Colbert• Power Diffusion • Amazon and the Avery durable binders • Twitter: measuring natural conversation?• Institutional Adaptation • Romney’s fake Twitter followers • VP choice announcements: – Obama’s strategy in 2008 (via text message) – Romney’s strategy in 2012 (via mobile app)
  8. 8. A brief history of e-campaigning• 1996: Debut of candidate’s web pages• 2000: The first internet election: Bush v. Gore (Bimber & Davis) – Wayback Machine - Al Gore: Jan. 19, 1998• 2004: Howard Dean: fundraising, online organizing• 2008: + social media• 2012: the works: nanotargeting, wives of the presidential candidates tweeting• “Winning an election isnt just about kissing babies anymore -- its about knowing which babies to kiss, and how and when to kiss them.”
  9. 9. A look back at 2008• “Today Obama is like a brand, his campaign like a $250 million company, and the voters like customers; the persuasion flows one way. If he becomes president, then power, authority, and legitimacy will flow in both directions; voters…may push against his initiatives in office, sometimes unpredictably.” –Marc Ambinder, The Atlantic (2008)
  10. 10. 2012: Narwhal• “This year’s looming innovations in campaign mechanics will be imperceptible to the electorate… If successful, Narwhal would fuse the multiple identities of the engaged citizen—the online activist, the offline voter, the donor, the volunteer —into a single, unified political profile.”
  11. 11. 2012: Data mining• “Some data comes from official records: voter registration, political contributions, gun licenses… more now comes from your commercial activity: credit card transactions, outstanding loans, even supermarket loyalty cards…perhaps the richest source of data about you is ... you. Just think of all you share about yourself on Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and other social networks…[and] visits to the candidates own websites.”
  12. 12. Example #1: Greenpeace vs. Nestle• video; summary• 90,000 Nestle protesters took over the company’s Facebook page• Nestle PR fail?
  13. 13. Example #2: The debates• Second Presidential Debate Tops Super Bowl in Social TV – “The second presidential debate generated 12.24 million social media comments – 11.7M tweets and 572K public Facebook posts. This makes it the #3 most social TV event of all time (Super Bowl XLVI had 12.20 million comments). The first presidential debate garnered 11.2M comments.”• And yet…” Besides the spike in activity over Obama’s “fewer horses and bayonets” comment, Twitter came 4 million tweets short last night of breaking the record set by the first presidential debate.”
  14. 14. Example #2: The debates• The second debate in numbers: – 37 Tweets Obamas campaign sent out during the second debate – 117,374 Times they were retweeted – 2 Tweets Romneys campaign sent out during the second debate – 6,810 Times they were retweeted (source)
  15. 15. Example #2: The debates• The Twitter Election:• “the tweet volume for the election four years ago represents only about six minutes of tweets in 2012.”• “more election-related tweets are sent every two days this year than were sent out entirely in the leadup to the 2008 vote, Twitter officials say.”
  16. 16. Example #2: The debates• The numbers: Facebook election insights (by CNN) – (see also U.S. Politics on Facebook)• “Following the final presidential debate, more states are buzzing on Facebook about President Barack Obama than Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. Mentions of Obama are up 111% in the last day while mentions of Romney are up only 81%”
  17. 17. Examining…• The numbers: Facebook election insights (by CNN)• “Following the final presidential debate, more states are buzzing on Facebook about President Barack Obama than Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. Mentions of Obama are up 111% in the last day while mentions of Romney are up only 81%”
  18. 18. Example #3: Todd Akin
  19. 19. Lessons learned• Sometimes the tried-and-true campaign tools win out.• In the end, it might just be Hurricane Sandy…• Keep in mind: Everyone can produce the campaign – everyone can consume the campaign (Qualman = listen!)• “What’s the return on putting your pants on in the morning? We don’t know. But we just know it’s bad if you don’t do it.” (Jan Rezab, the chief executive of Socialbakers, in Campaigns Use Social Media to Lure Younger Voters)
  20. 20. Further reading/viewing• In Twitter We Trust: Can Social Media Sway Voters? (NPR)• Eric Qualman’s Social Media Revolution• Social media use in the Netherlands – 77 slides on Social Media Around the World 2011: Country report Netherlands – European Travel Commission: New Media Trend Watch (Netherlands)
  21. 21. For next week• Consuming the campaign: How are voters using social media to talk about the election?• *perceptions of the candidates/campaigns (Gabby)• *interaction with other citizens• Some ideas: – Follow your own Facebook feed & look for election mentions – Find an election-related Twitter handle/hashtag and monitor