Election 2012, Big Data, and Social Media

Election 2012: Why Twitter, The Visual Web And Big Data Are The Winners

I’m sure everyone has seen the image posted here several times in the past 24 hours if you’ve been engaging on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Pinterest or Instagram. Maybe you haven’t, but that image now stands as the most ReTweeted image (over 675,000 ReTweets) on Twitter and the most shared image on Facebook (over 400,000) to date. In one fell swoop, the 2012 election ushered in a number of sweeping reforms within the social strategic landscape. The first change is the mainstreaming of Twitter, and how it is the primary tool for political candidates to push information to their followers, in addition to mainstream news agencies using it as a tool to feel the pulse of the public. The second is the visual social Web as a way to emotionally engage on social platforms during a political campaign; and the third is the essential trumping by arithmetic analysts using Big Data on unreliable traditional polling and pundit counterparts.

In regard to the dominance of Twitter in the election, Nick Bilton @nickbilton of The New York Times compared how Twitter was used in 2008 to how it was used this year in a simple, yet essential observation. Bilton tweeted, “During the ’08 election we tweeted what they were doing on TV. Four years later, TV is talking about what we’re doing on Twitter.” In fact, some have dubbed this the “first Twitter election.” Although in 2008 ,social was a big part of getting the youth interest, social is now so mainstream that to not use Twitter is practically committing political suicide. Democratic Jamal Simmonds said it best, “This is the first Twitter election, and social media is now fully a part of our election mechanics. Going forward, candidates must have an aggressive social media strategy if they want to win.” Many news agencies were quick to use Twitter to communicate results, knowing many of their followers want more of a personalized experience. But it even went beyond simply social experts and news organizations. One statistic notes that 22% of registered voters tweeted about the act of voting. This statistic shows again how word-of-mouth plays an important part of a strategy as noted by Simmonds.

In late 2011, Read, Write, Web predicted a trend in 2012 of the rise of the visual Web. Much of this has to do with how users create and share information across various platforms. As a result, the visual social Web is continuing to emerge as an important part of communication. This trend was noted on many of the platforms in which information would be shared via creative content strategy. Both sides were quick to utilize visual communications throughout this campaign, to help draw awareness to issues and to get out the vote. One team seemed to understand better how likes, comments and shares of photo content travel further in the social word-of-mouth ecosystem. It’s another reason for the growth of Facebook to 1 billion users, the purchase of Instagram by Facebook, and the mammoth growth of visual blog platforms, such as Tumblr. People want to engage with imagery in which they have a personal connection, and share that content on social networks. It’s one reason why this image is being shared at a rapid rate today. In the end, one side was better at emotionally connecting with its audience using the visual Web. The need for visual content that is designed to be shared is now the ongoing rule for any successful campaign, not the exception.

The third and final winner is the rise of Digital Big Data and the end of political punditry. The Web has always been a haven for speculation. It’s in the open source nature for people to create myths or tall tales that need to be refuted. Much of this is due to the nature of the social Web, where one can remain anonymous. But now, digital data is showing that speculation may not be the best way to plan for a desired outcome. We’ve discussed in the past the evolving world of Big Data and how it is re-shaping a variety of industries, from Tech to Consumer Packaged Goods to B2B. Now, as a result of Election 2012, Big Data reshapes the political landscape, too, giving more credence to analytical wizards like Nate Silver, while casting talking head pundits to the silence chamber.

How the three winners in Election 2012 can be applied to your overall marketing strategy moving forward:

  • Don’t be afraid to use Twitter as the primary means of communication between you and your advocates. Brands know this, but many still follow an “issue press release first” protocol that doesn’t work within the speed of 21st Century communication. As noted last night, President Barack Obama’s first form of communication to the public at large was a tweet to his followers.
  • Show, don’t tell. Content and visuals that are personal, and allow the individual to want to share the story with others because of an emotional connection that trumps simple text. People share visuals, they don’t share long sermons of information explaining your product or your particular POV, especially if it’s not easy to share with others.
  • Big Data is the new planning and insights. Punditry and speculation may seem creative, but are irrelevant to proper ROI tracking. Too many times, simply thinking an idea is creative and will lead to desired results is not enough. We are in a new world now, where the access to data needs to be analyzed, processed and utilized for the best course of action.

Last night, one camp used these methods with better effectiveness than the other. They won the hearts and minds of the electorate. Can you do the same to win yours?