After the huge role that social media played in the election of Barack Obama in 2008, it was clear to strategists, politicians, and the general public that campaigns would never be the same. No longer were social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook optional - afterthoughts in the dissemination of information. It became necessary for everyone in office and everyone seeking public office to maintain a Facebook and Twitter account.
And while the level of participation and amount of influence exerted through social media varies from person to person, it's a pretty well-received idea that the more candidates can interact via these channels, the better.
A new study conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of brand agency Digitas shows just how important a strong social media presence really is to voters these days.
According to the research, 61% of social media users say that they expect candidates to have a social media presence.
That's important information for candidates considering that the survey also found that 82% of U.S. adults are social media users - and 88% of those social media users are registered voters.
And the people are paying attention to what candidates are saying on social sites - the information is very important. 38% of the social media users said that the stuff they see on Twitter and Facebook will "help determine their voting choices as much as traditional media sources like TV or newspapers." Info gathered on social media isn't just a bonus for them, it's as important as info gathered anywhere.
Here are some other interesting findings from the survey:
- The younger the voter, the more they will use social media to make decisions about candidates. 62% of those aged 18-34 compared to 40% of those 55+. But really, that's a significant chunk of the older population that will rely on social media.
- 51% of all those surveyed said that they will definitely use Facebook and Twitter to learn more about candidates in the 2012 elections.
- The lower the household income, the more likely a voter will turn to social media to make their decisions on candidates: 47% for incomes $35,000 and below compared to 34% for incomes of $75,000+.
- Having a child under 18 in the house makes adult voters more likely to turn to social media to learn about candidates.
"In at least the last two election cycles, digital media has taken a profound a role in determining our next president as TV did in earlier generations," says Jordan Bitterman, SVP and Social Marketing Practice Director, Digitas. "But the results of this new research show that the extraordinary power of social networks to connect us and build relationships may have even greater impact on who wins in 2012. JFK is considered the first television President. Next year's victor may well be determined by the impact of Facebook and Twitter."
Twitter is playing a huge role in campaigning already, as they launched promoted political ads back in September.
Do you follow President Obama and the GOP candidates on Twitter and Facebook? Who do you think has the best social media presence? Let us know in the comments.