Of course, this type of strategy is to be expected from the tech-savvy Obama administration. And, as expected, the White House web site also features the first official White House blog, with frequent updates, mostly by White House staffers, but periodically by cabinet members and others in the administration. Maybe the president himself will blog someday.
The 2008 Presidential Election
All the attention given to the social media aspect of the State of the Union address was reminiscent of the 2008 election season. On November 5, 2008, an article on BusinessWeek.com titled “The Vote: A Victory for Social Media, Too," referred to the 2008 election as the "first social media election," and discussed the unprecedented effect all forms of social media had on the election. According to the article, Facebook kept a running tally of users who checked a box indicating they had voted -- and the number had exceeded 4 million by around 10pm. Facebook users could also send each other virtual Obama or McCain buttons, and many wrote on friends' walls showing support for a candidate.
YouTube also came into play in a big way during the campaign season. PBS teamed up with YouTube to ask American citizens to "Video Your Vote," a campaign for people to shoot videos of their voting experience and then upload them to a special section of YouTube.
Not to be left out, Twitter provided another non-partisan voting tool, the Twitter Vote Report, a collaboration of volunteer software developers, designers and others who teamed up with blog techPresident to allow voters to share problems with their voting experience.
As reported on the techPresident blog, Nina Keim and Jessica Clark of American University's Center for Social Media compiled a report describing the project and its results:
"...Developed in less than a month, the project generated more than 12,545 submissions, marshaled more than 7,500 contributors, and involved nearly 20 highly skilled volunteers and partners."
Where Will It Take Us?
We know that the Obama campaign led the numbers in social media, in terms of friends on MySpace and Facebook, and being first out of the gate to use Twitter. The McCain campaign jumped on the bandwagon, but never managed to amass the number of online supporters. However, both camps were heavily dependent on social media by the time election day rolled around. As the use of social media continues to grow and its importance to our culture expands, future candidates will have an unprecedented opportunity to use this free avenue to reach mass numbers of people with targeted messages without dipping into their advertising budgets. Clearly, social media influenced the 2008 election -- what will be its influence on the coming elections in November for Congress -- and what will be its effect on the next presidential election? Will social media become the most important tool in a candidate's arsenal?