A Digital Vote…

With the U.S. presidential election happening today, most of us are probably hot on the campaign trail, busy exchanging point of views with friends on whom will emerge as the victorious presidential candidate. For me, being a digital geek, I am an avid follower of the election updates via sites NPR, CNN, YouTube, LinkedIn updates, Facebook postings, and tweets. At the end of the day, we are all only entitled to one vote, and we have to make that key decision: red or blue. Who will you choose?

In 2008, Obama was a fierce digital supporter while he campaigned for the presidential elections. We saw him spearheading a fully integrated digital campaign, tapping into live streaming on YouTube, paid search, display advertising, email marketing (direct mailers), and of course the use of social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace. I even remember watching Obama’s victory speech in Grant Park via YouTube. That was a brilliant election year as Obama paved the road for future elections not only in the U.S. but across the world. It has since been four years and today I live in  Singapore but I am still able to follow the U.S. elections closely through the impact and footprints that digital has paved.

Let’s look at a few interesting ways both candidates made use of digital:

  • According to election filings, this year Romney is spending close to $5 million while Obama has spent close to $50 million and was expected to spend up to $100 million in online advertising by today.
  • Both parties are making use of mobile apps, social media accounts, and online advertising strategies. We have seen Obama’s Twitter and Facebook fans surpass Romney’s. This year we have seen Obama find new ways of reaching voters, from appearing on a Reddit live chat to inserting ads in video games. The Romney camp has Spotify playlists running and active Pinterest accounts.
  • Both Romney and Obama apps let you make donations while the Obama campaign accepts donations via text messaging. In 2008 Obama used a text message to announce his running mate Joe Biden before it came out to press. Romney took the same approach to announce Paul Ryan to supporters via SMS this year. However, there was a glitch and news came out hours after it was broadcast.
  • Now the focus has shifted to states where votes can be changed. If you are in the U.S. and download the Obama app  and press the “CANVASS” button immediately you are taken to a map showing the street you are standing on with flags highlighting houses where votes may be up for grabs. Click on the flag and the first name of the homeowner and political preference is revealed. The next page offers a doorstep script to help persuade voters to vote for Obama. There is also a box to enter information during the conversation. This is then sent back to the campaign’s central database, adding to a huge amount of data already gathered in the last election.

It’s remarkable to see how much the digital world has transformed in the past few years. Who would have imagined it being so strategically executed by the Obama campaign, and constantly driving in more supporters as the final date is edging closer? Not to mention, Romney’s use of digital is two steps ahead of many other politicians and his presence in the space is recognized.

The elections have proven to take digital to a whole new level and it’s interesting to see how this will pave the way for the future. On that note I voted today, make sure you do too.

Democrat and Republican party symbols image on home page via Shutterstock.

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