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Thursday, December 6, 2012

"The First Real Digital Election"

The second edition of our book includes a boxed feature on the impact of social media and communications technology.  CNN reports on a forum to discuss this topic:
The 2012 contest, said Google’s Vice President for Public Policy Susan Molinari, was the “first real digital election” – a sentiment voiced by many digital and political experts gathered at CNN and Google’s “Exploring the 2012 Digital Election” event held Wednesday in Washington.
Online platforms acted as an “early warning system” for candidates, said Google’s Andrew Roos, pointing to spikes in search activity for phrases like “binders full of women” and “Big Bird” after they were uttered by GOP nominee Mitt Romney.
... Increasingly, the web is offering predictive tools that could become essential for campaigns looking to gauge their position ahead of important contests. Charles Scrase, Google’s head of elections, issue advocacy and non-profits, said search volume had become “so prominent we’re able to predict the outcome of primary elections,” including Rick Santorum’s surprise Iowa caucus win in January.
One shift from 2008, said multiple digital experts, was how voters viewed major events on the political calendar, including the two party conventions and the three presidential debates. Unlike in 2008, when those events were largely viewed only on televisions, voters this cycle were increasingly likely to watch on multiple screens.
Social media also changed how reporters covered the 2012 contest – which was marked by rapid pace news cycles and a steady flow of misinformation that was easily propagated online.
One area where Obama’s team held an advantage, said CNN’s Peter Hamby, was top members of the campaign’s willingness to participate in the online conversation. Senior Romney advisers were less visible
“Having the weight of David Axelrod come down on a story on Twitter could influence assignment editors, producers, reporters,” he said.
“They don’t just send you an email anymore,” added USA Today’s Jackie Kucinich.
In July Pew Internet reported:  "Television’s solitary screen is being supplemented by multi-screen interactivity. Half of all adult cell owners (52%) have used their phones recently for engagement, diversion, or interaction with other people while watching TV." [emphasis added]

CNN also reports on 5 takeways:
1.) It’s all about investing early: Both practitioners acknowledged that Obama’s campaign had a huge advantage, given that the digital team already had an infrastructure in place from the previous election. ...
2.) You have to persuade, not just organize: In 2008, [Obama's Andrew] said social media was a convenient platform to mobilize supporters. The “biggest change” this cycle, he said, was realizing that persuasion had to be “front and center” in social media, not just in advertising but in convincing the electorate who to vote for. ...
3.) Social media has become more efficient:  [Romney's Zac] and Bleeker agreed that social media platforms have made it possible for campaigns to be more persuasive. By building applications that allow for fundraising and more interaction between the campaigns and voters, social media has become more “meaningful,” Bleeker said.
4.) It’s about quality, not quantity: Part of what makes the interaction more meaningful is the ability to microtarget, the two rival digital strategists said. Moffatt said the Romney campaign was able to use geo-location on Facebook, where it could post relevant messages in respective areas. “We were doing 40 to 50 posts a day that most people didn’t see” because they were showing up in targeted areas, he said.
5.) Online has a longer life cycle than TV messaging: With television ads, a commercial may run for only a few days, but those same ads can live online indefinitely. After tallying up the number of times people played Romney ads online, people collectively spent 417 years watching their commercials online, Moffatt said. And according to Charles Scrase, Google’s head of elections, viewers are twice as likely to remember a message if they see it both online and on television.