President Barack Obama wasn’t the only winner in the recent presidential election. Undeniably, technology proved to be a popular pundit in the 2012 campaigns, contributing in areas ranging from fundraising to the dissemination of valuable information.
Indeed, gone are the days when campaign signs and television commercials were a candidate’s primary means of spreading his or her message. Instead, over the past several elections, technology has emerged as a critical aid. For example, in the 2004 presidential campaign the rise of blogs provided an influential new source of political commentary beyond the traditional press. And in 2008, the proliferation of social media played a major role in messaging, with sites like Facebook helping candidates and potential voters alike to instantly share news, pictures, video and sound bites.
In 2012, technology gained even greater momentum, impacting several key areas of the presidential election including:
1. Fundraising with the push of a button
Drumming up revenue for political campaigns is arguably among the biggest challenges faced by candidates. This year, mobile technology — facilitating the convenience of mobile payments — played a significant role in helping politicians collect from donors who might not otherwise have contributed.
Pew Research Center reports that 90 percent of Republicans and 85 percent of Democrats own a cell phone, and about half of each party’s voters own a smart phone. Payvia, a leading mobile and online payments company that allows consumers to make simple and secure payments via their mobile phone, offered text-to-donate apps for both Presidential campaigns.
Wondering how effective the technology was? The company reported that one in 10 presidential donors contributed via text message or mobile app. Furthermore, Mitt Romney’s campaign saw a 96 percent spike in individual mobile donor volume following the first debate, which the Romney campaign streamed on its website (a link to donate via text was included on the site). Meanwhile, President Obama — who drew donations from about 1 million mobile users —saw a similar real-time response after Campaign Manager Jim Messina sent a “text to donate” message during the Democratic National Convention, sparking a 61 percent boost in volume.
2. Easy access to news
The ever-rising number of smart phone users translated, in turn, to far more potential voters who read political news on their phones, as well as interacted with political apps and viewing mobile ads. The convenience of being able to access the latest sound bites anywhere anytime proved key for candidates to distribute information.
3. Social media showdown
While political campaigns have long proven themselves to be extremely capable of ascertaining polling analytics, 2012 provided a backdrop by which they could squeeze even more returns out of the huge cache of new data available from a variety of social media sources.
While Facebook proved significant in 2008 as a way to build a following for a candidate, social media was still in its infancy. Fast forward four years, and the savvy use of analytics enabled candidates to sift through the mountains of data made available through social, mobile and other types of profiling — behavioral data capable of giving them an advantage over their opponent.
2012 also paved the way for Twitter taking center stage. Over the past few years, Twitter has become the new real-time newswire for influencers and the media, also emerging as a way for candidates to connect directly to constituents without the filter of campaign managers and media experts.
4. The power — and reach —of the Internet
While it’s unclear just how much muscle the self-proclaimed political pundits have in influencing political campaigns and election results, the Internet clearly provides an easily accessible pulpit by which they can spread their desired messages. From podcasts to online videos, political information is readily available for any presidential candidate.
In many posted speeches, candidates can be seen contradicting their current political positions, proving that words may indeed come back to haunt you. Older political videos also had the potential to cause problems for candidates whose positions have changed over the course of their careers. Still other video clips led candidates to regret their choice of words (think Romney’s “victims”). The bottom line is, the accessibility of these audio and video clips, coupled with wide media distribution, led to some distrust amongst voters who supported particular candidates.