Social Media Election
The two presidential candidates weren’t the only ones in the media spotlight the evening of November 6th. Again making headlines throughout traditional media coverage of Tuesday’s Election Night coverage was the giant social universe. We could call it the new Social Media Election.
Three weeks ago a Pew Internet & American Life Project study determined that 39 percent of U.S. adults used social media to converse about politics, and that during the monumental first presidential debate, on Oct. 3, more than 10 million tweets flew across the Twittersphere.
Since the last election in 2008, social media activity has soared. Four years ago, 1.8 million tweets were sent on Election Day. Yesterday, at times, 1.8 million tweets were being issued every six seconds.
With not three hours having passed since the polls closed in the Eastern Time zone Tuesday night, ABC News reported that 65,000 politically oriented tweets were going out every 60 seconds. By 10 p.m., more than 18.3 million tweets had been flung to the far reaches of the socialsphere. And by the time the news was announced that President Obama had been re-elected, more than 31 million tweets had been recorded, with a high of 327,452 per minute spiking around the time of the announcement.
So, what did people converse about? The No. 1-rated social media election-related topic was “Stay in Line”—people encouraging those waiting in long lines to hang in there, keep their places…and vote! Republican Senate hopeful Linda McMahon’s bid to win a Congressional seat from her home state of Connecticut totaled the second highest interest content-wise. McMahon reportedly spent well over $100 million dollars of her own personal fortune—with husband Vince she co-owns pro wrestling’s WWE circuit—in a second unsuccessful attempt (she also failed in 2010) for the Senate. “What If Romney Wins…” came in third overall, with voters wondering what changes would occur if the challenger won. A flurry of activity on #ivoted recorded those who had already visited the polls. Facebook reported at one point in the evening that 9,682,443 of its users had hit the “I Voted” app to log their experience. And lastly, talk flowed about the important undecided states: at the time, Ohio and Florida.
One individual, interviewed on ABC-TV’s Your Voice/Your Vote coverage of the returns, spoke of disappointment at the content exchanged on social media, saying, “People put out what they believe, then get shot down for it. I would like to have seen more conversations about ‘What I’d like for America,’ but it didn’t happen.”
Forbes offered its top social media moments throughout the months of campaigning, headed by the infamous Mother Jones video shot at a Romney private fund-raiser in mid-September. That was followed by the Big Bird episode that went viral after Romney mentioned during the first debate that he would favor cutting funding to public television stations.
With future elections sure to be more and more influenced by social media, politicians—from district races all the way to the White House—will be certain to include one very influential stop along their respective campaign trails: the Web.
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(Sources: ABC News Your Voice/Your Vote, Katie Couric segment on social media, Nov. 6, 2012; Forbes.com, Juliet Barbara: “5 Unforgettable Social Media Election Moments,” Nov. 6, 2012, (http://onforb.es/PGZZxX); Pew Internet, Rainie, Smith, et al, “Social Media and Political Engagement,” Oct. 19, 2012, (http://pewinternet.org/Reports/2012/Political-engagement.aspx); digitaltrends.com, Natt Garun, “Social media election reactions that made us laugh, cry, and proud to be Americans,” Nov. 7, 2012, (http://www.digitaltrends.com/social-media/election-reactions-that-made-us-laugh-cry-and-proud-to-be-americans); the gleaner.com: “Editorial: Romney reference brings Big Bird to political arena,” Oct. 10, 2012; http://bitly.com/STUvAE)