Social media changes in the 2012 election

By Audrey Williams

October 23, 2012 Updated Oct 24, 2012 at 11:20 AM CDT

NORMAL, Ill -- In the 2008 election, social media use in campaigns was new and different; many say it paved the way to Pennsylvania Avenue for President Barack Obama.

Now, it is mainstream and imperative for candidates and political groups to reach voters through social media.

Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr --they are all leaders in today's social media world. As some of you may have noticed, the leaders of this country and hopeful leaders are using those sites in full force this election season.

"When 2008 was the social media campaign. It was what everyone thought was new and interesting and exciting. Now you're just expected to do it and it's just another tactic in the tool kit of a campaign," said Rebecca Hayes, ISU Assistant Professor of Public Relations.

Hayes said the way voters and candidates use social media during campaigns has changed greatly since the 2008 election. From the sites themselves, to who does the posting and how voters are targeted.

"Facebook was the social media that got all the attention in 2008. Of course it's still relevant, but Twitter and Tumblr are driving the narrative," said Hayes. "In 2008, it was a lot of interns. And that was who was well versed in social media at the time, the younger folks. Now we're seeing more of a professional campaign staff."

President Obama currently has 31 million likes on Facebook and 21 million Twitter followers. Mitt Romney, meanwhile, has just over 10 million Facebook likes and 1.5 million followers on Twitter.

However, Hayes says each candidate has approximately the same amount of activity on their pages. This was not the case between Obama and McCain 4 years ago.

One follower of both candidates this year is ISU Senior Natalie Richardson.

"I follow both because I want to try to be educated on what both of them have to say because it's important to always remember there is another side and not just stay one-sided. Especially as a student at a University it's important to know the different sides so you can have those discussions," said Richardson.

Just what the social media landscape will look like for the 2016 election, like the President, one can only guess at this point.

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