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What Impact is Social Media Having on the Presidential Election?

14 Sep

Now that the Republican and Democratic National Conventions are over, we are quickly approaching the finish line to see who will become the President of the United States. How will social media affect the outcome of this (and future) elections and what activities can we expect to see in our Facebook and Twitter feeds?

One way that we can predict future happenings is to see what took place in the past. Reporters Clive Cookson and Ling Ge wrote an interesting article in The Financial Times about an experiment that took place on Election Day in 2010. “On November 2, 2010, the day of US congressional elections, 61m Facebook users in the US saw a non-partisan ‘get out the vote’ statement at the top of their news feed. This ‘social message’ included a clickable ‘I voted’ button, a link to local polling stations, a counter showing how many Facebook users had already reported voting and, most importantly, up to six pictures of the individual’s Facebook friends who had reported voting.

“But 600,000 people were randomly assigned to a second group that saw a modified ‘informational message’ that did not show faces of friends. The third group, also of 600,000, received no election day message at all from Facebook,” explains Cookson and Ge.

The results were impressive: reminding people to vote via Facebook increased participants by over 60,000 votes. The group that was sent the “I voted” message sent another 280,000 voters to the polls.

“Social influence made all the difference in political mobilization,” said lead author James Fowler of UC San Diego. “It’s not the ‘I Voted’ button, or the lapel sticker we’ve all seen, that gets out the vote. It’s the person attached to it.”

SocialMediaMagic.com also agrees that voter numbers are likely to increase with the use of social media. In an article pertaining to the upcoming election, they comment that, “the 2012 candidates might prompt young supporters to record Youtube videos of themselves, their thoughts and why others should participate. These real world testimonials may be the hidden glue in an otherwise wayward social campaign.”

Social Media Magic also brought up the idea that QR codes will start to take a bigger role in campaigning (you know, those little black and white encoded squares that are found in a lot of advertisements. You take a picture of it with your smart phone to learn more about the product). “Seeking a way to interact closely with their voters, candidates might rely on QR codes connected to real world functionality, to send a message and prompt actions. These QR codes can help with a number of candidate problems, namely donations, endorsements and organizational ability.”

QR codes have also been taking a large role in fundraising efforts. It has been suggested that candidates place these codes on signs, banners, t-shirts, and other promotional materials to get the word out. It can also be a way to share exclusive updates, behind-the-scenes insights, or allow a set donation transaction with the click of your phone camera.

Whether you’re a small town politician or a local nonprofit, this upcoming presidential election is changing the way we think of fundraising. The candidates know that the more places they are at, the more voters they can connect with whether that be in person, online, or through a QR code. As they pave the way down this uncharted path of innovative social fundraising, the best thing we can do is watch and learn.

Twitter’s Political Index: The Newest Frontier in Democracy

8 Aug

Gone are the days of soapbox politics, trucks equipped with megaphones, and cardboard signs littering every intersection. Now the best way for a candidate to get their name out and reach voters is through mobile technology. From assessing voter sentiment to online political fundraising, the internet continues to become a staple in the modern day electoral process.

On the cusp of social media trends is the ever-increasing presence of Twitter. With the introduction of Twitter’s Political Index, up to the minute sentiments and public opinions are only a mouse click away. “Twitter teamed with data analysis firm Topsy and polling companies The Mellman Group and North Star Opinion Research in order to evaluate and weigh the sentiment of each day’s tweets regarding Barack Obama or Mitt Romney as compared to the 400 million tweets sent on other topics,” explains PCMag.com writer Stephanie Mlot. “Twitter doesn’t intend for the Index to replace traditional polling, but instead reinforce it, providing a better-rounded picture of the general public’s feelings toward the election.”

Adam Sharp, Twitter’s head of government, news, and social innovation commented on Twitter’s blog, “Just as new technologies like radar and satellite joined the thermometer and barometer to give forecasters a more complete picture of the weather, so too can the Index join traditional methods like surveys and focus groups to tell a fuller story of political forecasts.”

But really, how reliable is the information that is being posted concerning voter opinions on this new electoral resource? The first concern that comes to mind is that users of social media are probably in a younger demographic therefore skewing an accurate slice of what the voter demographic looks like. However, pingdom.com reports that the largest age bracket of Twitter users fall into the 35-44 year old category making up 25% of their audience and 64% of Twitter users are over the age of 35. (Just in case you’re interested, 61% of Facebook users are 35 and older.) Another question regarding reliability concerns whether or not the opinions voiced provide an accurate view of a slice of public opinion. Techland.Time.com shares that “the average Twitter user is a female, age 18-24, with a split between people making less than $30,000 and people making $50,000 – $74,999 a year. Most have a college degree or higher and live in an urban setting. The survey asked a random sample of 2,257 adults. Hispanic (18 percent) and African Americans (13 percent) are twice as likely to use Twitter than Whites (5 percent).”

So how does this political index actually work? BuzzFeed staff reporter Matt Buchanan has a great summary: “Topsy pores through every single tweet in real time, determines which ones are about Obama or Romney, and then assigns a sentiment score to each tweet based on its content. That is, whether it’s positive or negative toward Obama or Romney, and just how positive or negative it is. Add all the data up together and you have something like a real-time approval score for Obama and Romney, determined by what tens of millions of people are saying, which Twitter is going to release daily at election.twitter.com.”

Can you truly put your finger on the pulse of the nation just by logging on to Twitter’s Political Index? Sharp replies that the social media view often mirrors worldwide feelings regarding a candidate and that the last two years’ Political Index scores for President Obama often parallel his Gallup approval ratings, sometimes even foreshadowing future polling numbers.

The advantages to this new resource can be integral for future elections. Damage control, online fundraising, voter communication, streamlining hot topics, and political strategizing can enter into a whole new level with such a vast audience with information accessible in real time. The potential for this frontier is incredible and I am excited to see what happens next!

Fundraising News Roundup: Fundly Hits A Milestone, Political Campaigns See Boost

9 Jul

Following the Supreme Court’s landmark June 28 decision to uphold the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the political fundraising field has been awash with donations to figures on both sides of the aisle. But the political arena is not the only beneficiary of donors’ generosity: Fundly has succeeded in passing a major monetary milestone. Learn more about these developments and others in this week’s news roundup:

Fundly.com – Social fundraising giant Fundly.com recently announced more than $250 million has been raised for the many causes and events that use its online platform. Among the national and international organizations to use the fundraising site to good effect have been Habitat for Humanity, whose volunteers have created more than 650 Fundly campaigns, raising roughly $1.5 million, and Teach for America, which has raised more than $400,000 for projects in at least 20 regions across the country, reported the Paramus Post.

“Fundly’s mission is to help more people give more, and we are delighted with our success to-date in advancing that mission,” Fundly CEO Dave Boyce said at the Personal Democracy Forum thought leader conference early this month in New York City.

Restoring Love – With just three weeks to go until its “Restoring Love” event, Mercury One has nearly reached its social fundraising goal of $125,000 on Fundly.com. The rally, which will take place July 26-28 at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas will include a day of religious and charitable outreach to local neighborhoods and organizations, followed by a day-long celebration featuring guest speakers and musical acts.

StudentMentor.org – StudentMentor.org has set a goal of $25,000 in its 2012 Fundly campaign, and as the year passes the six-month mark, they appear to be halfway to completion. The group is dedicated to providing academic support to students at the college level, 51 percent of whom fail to graduate within six years, according to stats from the organization. The goal for the year is to provide 500 students with one-on-one support from a mentor to help them graduate on time.

The American Revolution – Independent documentary film “The American Revolution” chronicles Boston radio station WBCN, which had an underground progressive rock format from 1968 through 1974. The filmmakers are approaching the halfway point toward their $250,000 goal, which will be used for post-production editing and promotional outreach. Donors can receive a ticket to the December 3 donor celebration event.

Blackbaud Social Score – Fundraising analytics firm Blackbaud recently announced the release of its new Social Score software platform, which is designed to help non-profits evaluate the influence of their donors on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. According to the company, organizations can use the data to increase awareness among potential donors and potentially increase their donor rolls and event attendance.

Political campaigns – The Supreme Court decision regarding PPACA has led to a surge in donations to congressional campaigns, according to the Huffington Post. Democrats in particular have reaped the reward of the high court’s healthcare endorsement, with House democrats alone raising a combined $2.3 million since the announcement. Interestingly, the donations are being made largely to congressional campaigns, which are seeing grassroots support surge in the runup to the November election. Donations of roughly $35 appear to be the average, the Huffington Post reported.

According to a Washington Post analysis, donations to congressional and senate campaigns during the 2012 election cycle have soared over recent years, topping $884.6 million as of March 31. This is compared with $685 million raised during the same period four years ago

Twitter is the Testing Ground for Presidential Election

9 May

The fact that social media is being used in political elections is not news; the way that it is being incorporated is. While Facebook may be the most popular social networking site, Twitter has become a valuable testing ground for politicians to experiment with their political fundraising skills and their methods to improve their image. While this medium is certainly a double-edged sword, it is still one to be wielded.

Although only 13% of American adults are on Twitter, its influence has shown to be widespread. Many campaigns have begun focusing efforts on this site in an effort to secure the Oval Office. Heather LaMarre, a University of Minnesota communications professor who studies social media, discussed the shift in The Washington Post, “The subset of people on Twitter may be relatively small, but it’s a politically engaged audience whose influence extends both online and off. It’s not the direct message that has the biggest influence on people — it’s the indirect message.”

One amazing aspect of social media is its ability to enable public interaction with candidates like never before. In the past, the “average Joe” could voice his opinions in an article published in the editorial section of a newspaper or person-to-person in social settings with limited results. Now, he can freely write feedback on a politician’s Facebook page or Tweet a comment about a recent speech for thousands to read. This obviously could have positive and negative aspects that might impact a candidate’s image and therefore causing a need for new strategies of damage control.

“Our team understands that the most important issues in this campaign are jobs and the economy, not the Twitter controversy of the day,” Mitt Romney’s spokesman Ryan Williams said. “But we need to be on top of everything and monitor every aspect of this race. Twitter helps us keep our finger on the pulse of the fast moving pace of new media.”

Twitter has become a new sounding board, battleground, and public forum for the new era of politics. It has also helped with fundraising by guiding supporters to websites, garnering funds to further a candidate’s mission, such as a Fundly donation page. Sharing your opinions is one thing; sharing the fact that you put your dollars behind your beliefs certainly has more power. Plus, the ease of online giving has made campaign contributions more convenient than ever.

Sharing opinions, researching candidates’ stances on the issues, and political fundraising have never been easier because of the social media revolution that we are currently experiencing. While the presidential war may not be won on Twitter, it certainly is a battleground to contend with.

Candidates Still Getting Used to Social Media

30 Apr

I admit that I’m still getting used to the whole social media world. It almost feels like a marketing science experiment: if I post at this time on this day of the week while highlight a specific topic, will my results be higher or lower than my previous one? I know I’m hardly alone; many presidential candidates are also testing the waters of political fundraising using online resources.

I came across an interesting article on IndyStar.com that discusses some intriguing issues that the candidates are facing using the medium of internet communication. In the past politicians could debate on TV, send out flyers heralding their accomplishments and pay for ads in the newspaper declaring their stand on pertinent issues. However, many are turning to Facebook and Twitter to garner support with various results; now the voters can instantly respond which is causing both positive and negative effects.

So why would candidates risk having negative comments written on their Facebook pages? “It’s as much an issue about campaign and candidate identity as anything else,” states Kristina Sheeler, who studies political communication as chairwoman of the Department of Communication Studies at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. “If you’re not using Facebook and Twitter, you risk being labeled an old-fashioned candidate.”

Twitter hashtags are getting impressive results in many campaign strategies by drawing in followers who otherwise might never have looked at a candidate’s tweets. One example is when President Obama in a speech in Chapel Hill, N.C. urged students to tweet to lawmakers using the hashtag #dontdoublemyrate to oppose an increase in student loan interest rates. Many politicians are also using Twitter to post stances and opinions to their followers and are even responding to voter comments and questions to create a two-way dialogue that was previously unheard of. This added attention is creating a new platform to reach additional voters with amazing success.

Furthermore, social media has been a recent method for the people to police political claims. There are tens if not hundreds of websites out there that rebuttal arguments and verify facts. If knowledge is power, than our society got a whole lot stronger in the political realm with the implementation of the internet.

Finally, with politicians connecting and communicating online, donations have also seen a dramatic increase due to internet fundraising. Personal and political websites, Facebook pages and online donation sites such as Fundly are making giving that much easier while also connecting to social media outlets.

Social media is certainly making an impact on politics, both locally and nationally. In this new era, it is important for candidates to experiment in this cyber realm to garner voter attention, support and dollars.

New Presidential Fundraising Numbers In

24 Apr

It seems like things have quieted down a bit on the presidential election scene for the moment. Is this lull due to the candidates’ and political action committees’ submission of their numbers pertaining to how much they have raised and spent this campaign season? Is this the quiet before the storm as new strategies are created concerning political fundraising?

Reuters posted these incredible numbers this past Saturday which breaks down the incoming and outgoing figures of the aspiring presidential hopefuls and their PAC backers up until March 31. These numbers reflect the FEC filings and include total contributions received along with amount spent regarding operating and independent expenditures.

In the lead with $147.4 million raised is President Obama. His high-priced banquets, online fundraising appeals, and various speaking engagements have won the hearts and dollars of countless Americans. While his PAC, Priorities USA, is far from the lead raising a mere $8.8 million, Obama has shown that his ability to raise dollars is not dependent on others.

In second place is hardly a surprise: Republican candidate Mitt Romney. With $87.5 million raised and $77.5 million spent, Romney is far behind in dollars but not in support. His PAC, Restore Our Future, has been a powerhouse contributor adding $51.9 million to his campaign efforts.

According to CNN Political Editor Paul Steinhauser, the Romney campaign said that 84% of all donations received through the end of last month were $250 or less. The Obama campaign announced that 97% of their donations were for $250 or less.

While the two other Republican candidates have raised considerably less (Newt Gingrich has raised $22.5 million and Ron Paul $35.9 million), their numbers are still quite respectable.

Holly Bailey from The Ticket reports that Romney’s campaign “hopes to raise $500 million in high-dollar donations for the campaign and for the joint fundraising account it has set up with the Republican National Committee. Romney aides hope to bring in another $300 million from small donors—an area where the former Massachusetts governor has lagged during the GOP primary.” It is also estimated that his PAC will raise “$200 million to support his general election bid—bringing the GOP’s overall fundraising target to at least $1 billion to defeat Obama.”

In response, “Obama aides estimated the president would raise at least $750 million for his re-election bid—though that total is now likely to be far more given that Obama has signed off on several Democratic super PACs to raise and spend millions to help him win a second term… Obama enters the general election with a major fundraising advantage. Through February, Obama had raised nearly $160 million for his re-election campaign—not including another $126 million he’s raised for a joint fundraising account between his campaign and the Democratic National Committee.”

The numbers are high and continue to grow. With a little over six months until the election, it will be interesting to see the tactics used in the attempt to secure the Oval Office. Undoubtedly more events, debates, and social media fundraising are in the future.

Will the Money Keep Pouring in for the Presidential Candidates?

16 Apr

Is it just me or does the road to the Oval Office keep getting longer? It seems like the presidential candidates have been battling it out for an immense amount of time and slowly but surely the field has been narrowed down to a few frontrunners. Will the fundraising dollars to support these monumental campaigns still pour in?

There are several reasons why this election is a landmark in our country’s recent history: first of all, this is the first time in the post Watergate era that neither candidate is choosing to accept public funds. Secondly, a large portion of the monies collected has come from Super PAC’s which were deemed acceptable by the Supreme Court in 2010. Finally, the use of social media to gain supporters and donor dollars has never been used to this extent in any previous election. These factors alone will cause a huge impact pertaining to the results in this November’s election.

Paul Blumenthal of The Huffington Post explains that, “The public matching-funds system began in 1976 in response to the campaign finance abuses of the Nixon administration, uncovered during Congress’ investigation of the Watergate scandal. Presidential candidates who can show broad support through fundraising across the various states become eligible to receive matching funds from the government so long as they abide by strict spending limits. These funds are available for both primary and general election campaigns.” In this election both candidates have declined this option in favor of garnering unlimited funds from individuals and are able to avoid spending limits.

Super PAC’s have been rather controversial but influential, nonetheless. “Super PACs and political nonprofits have already poured more than $100 million into the 2012 elections, much of that on negative ads. Independent group spending this time is expected to easily eclipse the record $304 million spent in the 2010 cycle,” comments Blumenthal.

Social media has been the third major influence on this year’s presidential election. Online ads with Yahoo, thousands of Tweets, the implementation of Facebook pages and countless text messages have become the norm concerning modern campaigning. Not only is this appealing to a newer generation of voters, but it is making politicians more accessible to the public. Online fundraising has also increased creating a whirlwind of support like never before.

The times are changing and so are the ways that the politicians are attempting to climb up Capitol Hill. The winner will be the one who incorporates all three avenues brilliantly.