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La República, Peru

Obama’s Digital Victory

By Marco Sifuentes

Translated By Cydney Seigerman

7 November 2012

Edited by Gillian Palmer

Peru - La República - Original Article (Spanish)

A study by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism illustrated that, if the election were decided on the Internet, Obama’s victory would have been much more comfortable.

The study determined that Obama’s campaign posted four times as much content as Romney’s campaign and that the former was active in almost twice the outlets. Additionally, the president’s content generated double the responses (comments, shared content, views) from his followers.

The gap widened even more so on Twitter. Romney’s campaign tweeted one time a day; the Obama campaign, 29. The Democrat also had twice the posts on his website and double the amount of videos on his YouTube channel.

The interaction on networks has not been very high in both cases. The two candidates preferred to redirect the content produced by their followers to their own websites, in an effort to control a conversation that, on social networking sites, can be very aggressive. Nonetheless, during the time of the study, three percent of Obama’s tweets were retweets from his voters. Romney’s only retweet was a story from his son.

Obama went further. In the past days, his personal account was sending direct and private messages to all of his followers. This strategy did not discriminate at all. Various Peruvians that follow Obama on Twitter received these messages known as DMs. “A DM is a courtesy, 2 DMs are an interaction, 3 DMs is the beginning of a beautiful friendship @BarackObama Go for it :),” wrote @pacobardales.

The segmentation from the public, in this campaign, was much finer than during the 2008 election. Now, the analysts have at least four years of extra information about the voters, information that they themselves, voluntarily, submitted to distinct virtual platforms that they use.

That information does not only serve to personalize the message for each voter but also for their friends, whose information we also distribute inadvertently on social networks.

Another useful segmentation for the virtual campaigns: the quantity of people without a land line or that do not watch live television because they use TiVo or a different service that allows one to skip commercials. This is to say that that the voter is missing millions of television ads from the candidates. The messages need to find a way to reach voters, and that way is the Internet.

Not having land lines is another characteristic that those from Romney’s campaign call “off the grid.” It is these people, like those who do not watch live television, who have a higher probability of consuming their media content “below demand.” In other words, they are supplying themselves with their own menu of news, thanks to the Internet.

In this respect, there is a difference between Obama’s campaign this year and in 2008, when his website limited itself to reproducing news from traditional sources. Now, only content generated from his campaign is published under the section “Latest.” It has completely disregarded the media.

The impact of smartphone and tablet applications in both campaigns remains to be evaluated. Thirty-one percent of Americans access the Internet primarily from their cell phones.

The reelection of Barack Obama was practically never secured. Without such an intense digital campaign, would there have been a different result? Or is his overwhelming popularity on the Internet only a reflection of the separation between digital subcultures and “the real world”?



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