Obama's big social media edge: Will it affect the election?
September 22nd, 2012
10:28 PM ET
6 years ago

Obama's big social media edge: Will it affect the election?

New York (CNN) - If social media were the metric by which elections were won or lost, President Barack Obama would have little to worry about come November.

"I think it will literally make the difference," said Joe Trippi, a Democratic strategist who helped orchestrate the campaign of Howard Dean's failed bid for the Democratic nomination in 2004, after a presentation at the Social Good Summit here.

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As of Saturday night, the incumbent had garnered 28.8 million Facebook "likes" and more than 20 million Twitter followers, compared with 7.1 million "likes" and 1.16 million followers for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

"They got left in the dust," Trippi said of the Republican campaign.

But Leonardo Alcivar, the online rapid response director for Romney's campaign, was unimpressed. "If the number of Twitter followers and Facebook friends determined the election, Justin Bieber would be president," he said. "Our supporters are very engaged."

"Justin Bieber's not running," Trippi deadpanned.

He said the role of social media has ballooned since he worked on the Dean campaign. In 2004, "Facebook barely existed," he said.

Even four years later, Obama had just 2.4 million likes, he said.

As the numbers have grown, so too has the campaign's ability to use them, he said.

Two or three states "could look a lot like Florida did in the year 2000," he said, referring to the tight vote that wound up being put in the Republican column, resulting in George W. Bush's victory.

In any future such cases, Obama's social media mobilization efforts could prove decisive, Trippi said.

"If people knew how much these two campaigns know about you and the data you've turned over to them, you'd turn your machines off - and I mean that quite literally," he said.

For example, it might be possible for the Obama campaign to cull through those Facebook "likes" for undecided voters and identify those who have seen "Oceans 11," then target a message from actor George Clooney, who supports Obama, Trippi said.

Or an undecided voter may wind up receiving messages from five of her friends urging her to vote Democratic, he said. "That's more powerful than the paid ad Obama's spending money for on TV," he said.

Alcivar described as "incredible" the level of engagement the Romney campaign has created with supporters. "Twitter tells us a lot. We put a tremendous lot of resources in the Romney campaign to make sure we are focusing our communications efforts on reaching people directly," he said. "We know where the country is; we know there's a huge desire for change."

Who has how many social media followers is meaningless, he said. "The Obama campaign loves to engage in vanity metrics. They sound good but don't matter."

Trippi said both parties' campaigns have failed to use the media as much as they could because they want to keep a tight rein on their message. "I think they're way too careful ... I think both campaigns have suffered."

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Filed under: 2012 • President Obama
soundoff (36 Responses)
  1. Thomas

    The iPhone is a leftist tool or Facebook is a socialist media ? Yet republicans love to Tweet , ask Marco Rubio . It's as normal for him as looking in the mirror and combing his hair all day long.

    It's funny , all the right wing conservatives love the iPhone , they won't admit it, most won't use it . They tend to like the droid or other models. My theory is they prefer more difficult systems that they don't understand because it makes them look smarter. One ultra conservative friend of mine said the iPhone is a toy , it's too simple.

    They would prefer a dos operating system mobile phone.

    Keep it Simple Stupid !

    September 22, 2012 10:56 pm at 10:56 pm |
  2. Matt

    Of course it doesn't make a difference. You guys just ran a story a month ago showing that over 70% of his social site users were fakes.

    September 22, 2012 11:18 pm at 11:18 pm |
  3. Jason

    Considering how social networks are mostly used by teens and young adults aka the population that's the least likely to go out and vote, this "edge" is probably worth diddly.

    September 22, 2012 11:37 pm at 11:37 pm |
  4. Truth Partner

    Where is Joe Biden? Has anyone seen him, he is only the Vice President of the U.S.?

    September 22, 2012 11:40 pm at 11:40 pm |
  5. Jeccibeanz

    Won't impact the election at all.

    September 22, 2012 11:43 pm at 11:43 pm |
  6. SafeJourney

    Social Media helped President Obama in 2008, why not now

    September 23, 2012 12:00 am at 12:00 am |
  7. Nick

    Yes, it will. The issues every American will be voting on are; no jobs, failed economy, huge taxes Jan 2013, and Obama care that isn't. Tell me which one of those are Mitts failures? None. Obamas? Everyone. There is a very distinct correlation between a failed Obama and a new president that will turn our country around. Move "Forward", Vote MITT and PAUL!!

    Obamas social media continues to to spin his old and tired rhetoric – jealous of others work, unable to create anything of his own. So just take it from those that do. Americans are done putting up with lies, jealousy, whining. They want jobs, true leadership, and someone who actually works for them – not campaigning all the time. They will do the right thing Nov 6th and vote Mitt/Paul, a winning team.

    September 23, 2012 12:06 am at 12:06 am |
  8. Hillcrester

    Dems will get out the vote as effectively as in 2008–GOP voter disenfranchisement notwithstanding–and with more than six million new voters registered in the last five years, mostly in Obama's sweet spot of young and Hispanic, he should breeze to victory and pull down-ticket Dems into office with him.

    September 23, 2012 12:32 am at 12:32 am |
  9. RudyG

    Fourteen million unemployed. Americans hating Americans of different classes. A bankrupt government. Bush opened the ditch, and this president has made it a crater. And CNN talks about absolutely nothing..........

    September 23, 2012 01:09 am at 1:09 am |
  10. Kai

    Don't underestimate the powers of Social Media. That's how me and a bulk of Texans were able to show the country what kind of snake Rick Perry is. The country thought he was a God send for jobs and rights, until the real word started spreading about him, backed up by news articles from Texas about what he really does.

    September 23, 2012 01:13 am at 1:13 am |
  11. BP

    "I think it will literally make the difference," . . . Literally? Literally? I think not. I doubt most undecideds spend their lives on Facebook and Twitter. The people I know, who can vote and spend a considerable amount of time on social media are not undecided.

    September 23, 2012 01:22 am at 1:22 am |
  12. jparker

    I'm a proud Obama supporter & I received between 5-10 emails a day never less then 5.

    September 23, 2012 01:27 am at 1:27 am |
  13. Scottt01

    Did Obama know Solyndra was defunct but used it as a vessel to funnel funds to his superpac?

    September 23, 2012 01:35 am at 1:35 am |
  14. Bill in Ohio

    Here it is again: The GOP campaign is falling short.  Why am I not surprised?  Because we went through the same BS with McCain in '08.  The terrible thing is that this election is so winnable.  I'm sick of being let down by the GOP!  It is time for a third party: Gary Johnson in 2012!

    September 23, 2012 01:55 am at 1:55 am |
  15. jacques lepin

    Yes and no, it will affect it in the sense that social media has powerful "word of mouth" energy that will change the minds of many registered voters. However many on social media are either not american citizens but have a vested interest in the american election like most of the world, or not eligible to vote. Also a lot of people who sit and talk on social media are less likely to put their words online into action in real life. Just look at the contrast of the tea party with their rallys and the occupy wall street at their peak with their social media power. The tea partiers who got their families together to barbecue and discuss politics at a rally are far more likely to act then their computer clicking starbucks java drinking counterparts and at the end of the day despite occupy having far more public support, the tea party has more influence over the american system than occupy. Also with the internet you can choose who to socialize with, which means that it probably is more utilized for likeminded individuals to converse about issues they feel strongly about.

    September 23, 2012 01:57 am at 1:57 am |
  16. Dirk

    Yes, it will absolutely make a difference. Despite his dismal performance as President, he is nevertheless personally very popular because people, especially young people, think he is cool.

    I see people regurgitate Dem propaganda every day without having a clue as to the real issues. Unfortunately, it happens on both sides because I see Repubs do the same thing.

    September 23, 2012 02:11 am at 2:11 am |
  17. Tom

    Obama is a much cooler dude than Romney.

    September 23, 2012 02:27 am at 2:27 am |
  18. Tom

    Obama is a much cooler dude than Romney. The latter is too phoney, he seems embarrassed to be in front of people who are not like him.

    September 23, 2012 02:29 am at 2:29 am |
  19. Scottt01

    Truth be told, nothing about Mitt Matters; at all. What matters the utmost is that the talk is not about Obama because that would put into call all the failed promises he made and, his proclamation to end his own presidency if he failed them.

    September 23, 2012 02:36 am at 2:36 am |
  20. Bob Reddig

    Will CNN matter? No. Like millions of others, I will celebrate the expiration of a fraud in office, and a fraud in "news" gathering this November. You have been a stenographer for a hoax.

    September 23, 2012 06:20 am at 6:20 am |
  21. flecka

    Mr. Alciva–Beiber; really?!

    September 23, 2012 06:28 am at 6:28 am |
  22. Dorothy

    Obama sends 70 E Mails to AARP to promote Obama care- Holder sends about 70 E-mails to Media Matters also colaborating (sp) ~ Both TAX EXEMPT – It is against the law-
    AARP & Media matters should lose TAX exemption. How does CNN (lap dogs) spin this SCANDAL- with BS dishonest manipulated stories like this.Wasn't it a CNN (or MSNBC) Reporter who got caught Twitting Obama donation links Also against the law.

    September 23, 2012 07:16 am at 7:16 am |
  23. hesea

    Sure Social media will be an advantage but the mainstream media is his biggest asset. Media like CNN are so in the tank it's a joke, The headlines last week was the Libya mess but CNN has very little because it points out a failed foreign policy They will not cover anything negative about Obamaonly negaive about Romney. The constant sotries about his taxes, little about the real issues like 16 T in debt, no plans to fix, unemployment at 8.1 % and no plan to fix.

    September 23, 2012 07:22 am at 7:22 am |
  24. Michael

    Personally Obama's use of Social Media makes him look desperate and weak. Social Media is just that, social media anyone can broadcast or post anything they feel like it whether its true or not. I am not a big social media fan for the obvious issues in terms of what were reading or seeing or hearing is it true or someone giving their opinion. If I want a opinion I will form my own not listen to a bunch of others. Sorry I just can not believe in something that makes the majority of people who use it a bunch of braggers saying look at me, look what I did or listen to my opinion. Bunch of crap.

    September 23, 2012 07:30 am at 7:30 am |
  25. Harleigh Kiffer

    Keep stiring the pot and you will be a success. Make the man proud.

    September 23, 2012 07:35 am at 7:35 am |
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