How the 2012 U.S. Elections Played Out in Social Media
Last night I had the pleasure of coffee, dinner, and intellectually stimulating conversation with someone who closely follows politics as it relates to mass media. The natural course of topics veered every possible direction, but at one point we started talking about the role social media plays in the political landscape. Paraphrasing, we both agree that social media gives a voice to those who otherwise often feel small; we also agree that the semi-colon is the best punctuation mark.
This was the first election cycle where the use of social media went mainstream. In 2008, the Obama campaign surprised everyone by amassing more than $500 million from 3 million donors who made 6.5 million donations online. Much of those donations came from social media campaign initiatives and most of those donations were less than $100. After Sarah Palin dismissed the notion that community organizing had any responsibilities, the Obama campaign saw an additional $10 million flood in online within 24 hours.
In the 2012 elections, however, social media was more than just an innovative tactic; social media played a pivotal role in strategies from all sides. Let’s take a look at how social media was used in the 2012 U.S. Elections:
- During the Republican National Convention, Mitt Romney peaked at 14,289 tweets per minute.
- Michelle Obama’s speech during the Democratic National Convention peaked at 28,003 tweets per minute, according to TechCrunch.
- Big Bird, after being mentioned in the first presidential debate, inspired thousands of internet memes, and peaked at 17,000 tweets per minute, while PBS also saw a boost of 10,000 tweets per minute from the mention.
- Before the polls closed, Twitter recorded over 11 million tweets with the hashtag #election2012.
- 8.5 million people said they voted via the app created by the site. More than 2 million people were talking about Obama on Facebook, while 950,000 were talking about Romney. How many were talking about Nate Silver remains unclear.
- Instagram, a site not in existence in 2008, recorded over 775,000 photos with the words “vote,” “ivoted,” or another variation of the term. Many people showed photos of their “I Voted” stickers, their ballot, or the confirmation screen of their voting machine. More than 250,000 photos including a variation on the word “election.”
- Speaking of voting machines, one voter documented a faulty voting machine on video. Its submission to the popular site Reddit made the video go viral with over 4.1 million views. Officials later confirmed to Mother Jones magazine that they did re-calibrate the offending machine.
Despite all the early and ongoing social media action throughout the day, the most momentous moments came at the the end of the day, predominantly on Twitter, where 22% of voters are active users of the site. When the polls closed at 8:00pm EST in various states, the AP called races for eight states, resulting in 65,106 tweets per minute. When Pennsylvania and Wisconsin presidential races were called at 9:33pm EST that number jumped to 69,031 tweets per minute. Iowa caused that number to surge even more when its presidential race was called at 11:12pm EST, with 85,273 tweets per minute.
When the major news networks called Obama’s reelection at 11:19pm EST, Twitter nearly exploded at an astonishing 327,452 tweets per minute. The most notable moment, however, came when Barack Obama tweeted to his followers. At time of publication, that simple tweet and image has shattered any previous records with 644,773 re-tweets.
Four more years. twitter.com/BarackObama/st…
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) November 7, 2012
So what do you think? Other than your news feeds (or in the case of my colleagues in Ohio, mailboxes) being flooded with election material, how did social media impact you during this election cycle?