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Barak Obama was not only the first black man who became the President of the USA, but also the first man who began using social networks during his election campaign.
As a candidate for presidency, Obama handled his first full-featured presidential campaign based on the principles of the information society. He was the first American leader who not only successfully used the Internet and other mass media during the presidential elections, but was able to use them as an organizational methodology of the election campaigns at the level of religious and ethnic communities, national movements, and municipal corporations, cooperated on a national basis.
In the USA, more than 40% of citizens use the Internet to obtain information about the elections. Obama's campaign headquarters successfully used this opportunity. More than 70 000 users have registered at his pre-election website. His site contained a social network, links to Obama’s accounts on Facebook, LinkedIn, Flickr, and YouTube. Users of the site could join the events after learning about them through the website of the candidate and organize their own. It was effective because millions of people use social networks and add the election materials of “their” candidates to their sites and send them via emails. Some of these people discuss the election themes in chat and make donations to the candidate’s fund through the Internet resources.
What made his campaign turn to social media?
It began in 2008, when social networks have helped Obama to win the support of voters. They made him a candidate of young, which has never happened earlier, and brought to election wards a zillion of people younger than 30 years old.
In 2008, for the first time in the history of presidential races, all stages and events of the struggle for the White House were watched by the Americans in the real space (meetings with voters, a reflection of election campaign in mass media, particularly on TV), and in the virtual space generated by the worldwide web.
During the last presidential election campaign, the important role of the Internet was not limited to increase of network audience, appearance of new kinds of web journalism, and formation of new types of behavior in the virtual space, but also included Obama’s attitude to the Internet. Barak Obama’s official site actively renewed the different materials about his election campaign, gave visitors the possibility to register and take part in the discussions, and replenished the election fund.
By the end of the year, a large number of people were registered on Obama’s web pages opened in the popular online social networks and his site. Each of them pointed out the address, telephone number and expressed the attitude to the range of social problems that drawn the public attention.
Such kind of online communication was interesting to a lot of people. It gave them a feeling of belonging to important events of their presidential candidate. How did it look like? Regular e-mails signed by Obama or the managers of his election campaigns informed people about the planned events or contained a request to render assistance in something.
Everyone who received such letters understood that this appealed not to him personally, but at the same time began to feel like a part of a group of millions of people who were related to the political and social attitudes of the community.
How did they market themselves through media?
In the elections of 2012, Obama’s main competitor was Mitt Romney. According to the experts’ estimates, Romney was focused on the historical precedents: during economic difficulties, the state of the purses is influenced by the voters’ preferences. His focus was on Obama’s criticism - that he (Obama) had not been able to find a way out of economic problems. The republican promised to find a way through the conservative prescriptions that included the cutting of the federal budget by 20% and reduction of taxes. Some experts pointed out that the Romney’s rating improvement began before the debate. It is connected with the republican’s support by the affluent mass media.
However, loud voices were in favor of Obama. The New York Times published a leading article about its carefully considered preference of Barak Obama. The newspaper mentioned the impressive list of achievements of the incumbent president. He precluded another Great Depression, carried out the biggest healthcare reform since the adoption of the programs Medicare and Medicaid, developed an effective plan to combat unemployment, as well as struggled against terrorism, kept under control the Arab spring, supported the moderate rebels in Syria. What did they write about Romney? He got in touch with the ultraconservative forces that controls the Republican Party, offered irresponsible budget, surrounded himself with neoconservatives from the Bush administration, who are responsible for the initiation of war in Iraq and borrowed their militaristic discourses. According to the editorial staff, all of this gave the grounds for a clear choice in favor of supporting the Obama’s re-election. This article is a powerful example how mass media tries to influence the audience.
Obama's campaign headquarters also used Internet mimes, or so-called viral advertising. For example, a rapper Will.i.am of the group “Black Eyed Peas” and an actress Scarlett Johansson put Obama’s speech “A More Perfect Union” on the music and turned it into the mime “Yes we can”. YouTube was used regularly to demonstrate the pre-election clips. This is the site, where more than 35% of the Americans watch video online.
In 2008, a micro site FightTheSmears.com was integrated into the site My.BarackObama.com, where the negative rumors about Barack Obama were denied.
The president began to utilize new strategies of Friendraising, focusing on the first stage of the campaign, working with “small sponsors”, organizing the inflow of donations to the candidate site.
For the first six months of his campaign, he raised a record of $ 58 million, including $ 16.4 million from the so-called "small sponsors" who donated up to $ 200 each. It is important, because the candidates must show all sources of financing according to the law.
How did mass media impact users?
During the election race for the presidency in 2012, Obama’s political strategist extensively used Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+, Pinterest, Tumblr, Linkedin, and Reddit. The rating of the incumbent USA president was broadcasted; his speeches were quoted at the debates.
He actively communicated, answered the questions, and posted his comments in the business network Linkedin that helped him gather support of many people in the USA.
In 2012, Obama’s campaigns used the new applications for Facebook that worked with an incredible targeting (a mechanism that helps select the part that meets the criteria from all the available audience).
Now you can do more subtle things with a man’s personal information. A new technology has appeared. It’s called political cookie-files (small chunks of data sent by user’s computer to some web-servers). They differ from contextual advertising, like Google’s one, that literally relate an advertising banner in your browser with you in the voters’ list, or so-called voters’ files. As a result, they know everything: what magazine you subscribe to, how much you earn in a year, what is your scientific degree, etc. Here is a good example. When visiting Obama’s page on Facebook or his site, you receive his cookie-files in your browser. Now every time when you visit any site, you get the advertising “Win a dinner with Barak Obama. Donate now”.
The U.S. president has repeatedly stressed on the increasing role of social networks and the importance of "new mass media". However, the experts go by the message about the victory that the re-elected president posted on his page. This examination helped them to determine the Obama’s priority areas. He considered Facebook would be the most relevant for communication with the American audience. On Facebook, his account is supported by more than 35 millions of subscribers.
Barak Obama also helped another social network to achieve a record. This network is Twitter. And it can be said that Twitter helped Obama to win the elections. How? Before making the complimentary speech in Chicago, he posted a message with a double entendre: “This happened because of you. Thank you” on Twitter. Two more tweets followed in a few minutes. One of them was with the photo of Obama and his wife. Another one was just three words “Four more years” that established a historical record of the tweet popularity. This tweet has been re-posted by the users more than 600 000 times in the span of just a few hours.
The elections were over, and the next step of Obama’s communication with his network audience began immediately. The state site has already been opened on the first day after the elections. The name of this site brought together the key words for Obama’s election campaign, such as the word “change” and “government”, characterizing a new status of this politician.
Barak Obama’s election has become not only a consequence of activation of the political interests in large segments of the Internet audience. During the long months of the presidential struggle, among democratically spirited voters, including youth and well-educated layers of the electorate, new types and forms of online behavior online has formed. It includes a constant appeal to the political sites and a participation in the discussions on the favorite blogs.
As a result, the methods of voting technologies are constantly being improved and their role in the modern age has become enormous. The effect of the political manipulation is realized not only by the fact that people vote for the appealing candidate, but also that people accept the elective institute as the only legitimate and effective form of the expression of the popular will and accept the rules of the game. People trust the laws established by the government, even if they do not accept the legitimacy of the regimen. A man, who goes into the election and hopes sincerely to find influence on the life of the state, is already the result of the voting technologies’ impact, no matter what his choice is.
The methods of voting technologies will be improved and developed with an increasing speed. On the one hand, it is necessary for current political regimen as a condition of its relatively stable existence. On the other hand, it is driven by the rapid scientific and technological progress.