Politics

11.06.12

Obama’s Last-Minute Twitter Surge

The president’s last-minute social media push leaves Romney looking like a Luddite. Jamie Reno reports.

Will a last-minute paid Twitter campaign put President Barack Obama over the top tonight?

This morning, the Obama campaign launched a #voteObama Twitter directive aimed at securing last-minute votes and swaying independent voters. Governor Mitt Romney has not launched a comparable Twitter campaign today, and, say several observers, that could be a big mistake.

The last-minute Twitter strategy by the Obama camp, which began about 9 a.m. (EST), gives them an “extreme advantage over Romney, who’s just not responded to this,” suggests Kenneth Wisnefski, social media expert and founder/CEO of WebiMax, an Internet marketing company that has worked with such corporations as Aeropostale, JG Wentworth, 1-800-GOTJUNK?, and Toshiba.

Wisnefski says pre-election statistics from OpenSite.org, which uses infographics to explain online trends, show that 4 out of 10 voters indicate their voting decision will be based on some of the activity heard on social media today.

According to Wisnefski, real-time updates on Twitter can—and will—influence voters before they go to the polls. As this story was written, the top trending topic on Twitter was #voteObama, while none of the top ten were about Romney. Obama currently has nearly 22 million Twitter followers, while Romney has less than two million.

Wisnefski says the Romney campaign’s relatively weak presence on Twitter today could be a “huge tactical mistake. But it’s no big surprise. The Romney campaign has from day one been behind the curve when it comes to social media and the Internet. The reality is, when you look at who’s running these campaigns, there is this pre-set mentality, and the Romney side decided early on to do the same type of campaigning that has been done for years and years.”

Cami Zimmer, a Republican who began her career working for President George H. W. Bush, is now an online mobile, digital and social communications expert who consults with businesses, political candidates, PACs and more, and she reluctantly agrees with Wisnefski. Zimmer says she is “not surprised” by the lack of a more aggressive Twitter strategy by the Romney campaign on the day of the election.

“It pains me to say this, but President Obama has had an excellent overall social media/mobile strategy and Gov. Romney really has not,” she says.

“Some Republican candidates certainly get it, the RNC gets it, but President Obama hasclearly been better with the get-out-the-vote efforts and engaging directly with people online than has the Romney campaign,” she says. “Some folks are tired of the TV and radio ads. You have to engage people where they are. And today, that should be Twitter.”

“The Romney campaign has focused largely on digital ads for your computer, but not on social media,” says one Republican communications expert.

Zimmer adds that while the Republican National Committee has a “promoted” tweet today (#RNC), Romney does not. (According to Twitter, promoted tweets are ordinary tweets purchased by advertisers—or, in this case, political campaigns—who want to reach a wider group of users or to spark engagement from their existing followers. Promoted tweets are labeled as “promoted” when an advertiser is paying for their placement on Twitter, but act just like regular tweets and can be re-tweeted, replied to, favorited and more.

Paying Twitter has allowed the Obama campaign to have the promoted tweet #voteObama placed atop the trending topic list, which is on every Twitter home page. Why wouldn’t Romney want to do this, too?

“It’s clearly just not part of their strategy,” says Zimmer, who two years ago cautioned several of the Republican candidates for president not to fall behind with mobile and social media strategies. But she didn’t get much of a response.

“The Romney campaign has focused largely on digital ads for your computer, but not on social media,” she says. “I tried to help these campaigns, from Romney to Gov. Rick Perry, and while I didn’t have much luck, I’m confident things are starting to change. I am working with some Republican groups on mobile campaigns in Washington D.C., and they are great. I just know they can do more to win. The GOP will come around soon, with me yakking the next four years.”

Wisnefski suggests that so much is gained by utilizing social media and online initiatives. “Obama embraced that in 2008, while John McCain did nothing,” he says. “It’s just a mentality. I’m not particularly political, but it’s frankly a concern. You have a presidential candidate who is simply not engaged online. He is for the most part disconnected to what is going on in day-to-day American life. And in 2012, Twitter is the real world; it’s where influence is happening.”

There are staunch Republicans and Democrats who will vote the party line regardless, Wisnefski says, “but you have a growing population that is independent and influenced by what they see online. Obama is leveraging this to its maximum potential, even more than in 2008. He’s hitting people up on a day when a lot of people are influenced at the last moment.”

The Romney campaign, which could not be reached for immediate comment on this story, has been somewhat active on Facebook today. But “Facebook is more about loyalty, trading pictures, etc. It doesn’t have the same impact as Twitter,”Winefski says. “Twitter delivers, but it just isn’t on the Romney campaign’s radar. I think it’s a big mistake.”