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Will Instagram Elect the President?

Barak Oba­ma is bet­ting that its not what is said but what is seen that matters.

The Oba­ma cam­paign has cho­sen Instra­gram as its pre­ferred bat­tle ground in a fer­vent bid to secure the youth vote.

Every minute of every day 3600 images are uploaded to Insta­gram — that’s over five mil­lion pic­tures in any one twen­ty four-hour peri­od. Indeed, the 2012 pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates have all decid­ed that their pre­ferred way to court younger vot­ers is not by vis­it­ing schools, clubs and col­leges, but by har­ness­ing the unde­ni­able pow­er of social media.

Oba­ma already knows that young peo­ple are far more like­ly to lend their sup­port to the Democ­rats, but mobil­is­ing the youth­ful mass­es and get­ting them into polling sta­tions has always been a prob­lem. Back in 2008 Team Obama’s ‘Hope & Change’ cam­paign struck a chord with younger vot­ers and the num­bers putting their cross in the box rose sig­nif­i­cant­ly, with 66% of the youth vote going to Oba­ma. This year the Democ­rats are hop­ing to repeat the suc­cess they enjoyed four years ago by using social media to secure the sup­port of the 18–29 demographic.

For All – A Cam­paign Designed to Engage Young Americans

The President’s lat­est ini­tia­tive to pro­cure the youth vote is the ‘For All’ cam­paign, cre­at­ed to appeal to young peo­ple and secure their vote. It aims to high­light “the shared val­ues of the Pres­i­dent and young Amer­i­cans across the coun­try: that if we work togeth­er, we can con­tin­ue to move this coun­try forward.”

The cam­paign has launched on image shar­ing site Insta­gram, with users asked to write a com­pelling state­ment on their hands and have a pho­to­graph tak­en with that hand on their heart. This pic­ture should then be uploaded to Insta­gram with the hash­tag #forall. The cam­paign team have also set up a web­site aimed at the 18–29 age bracket.

Social media com­men­ta­tors agree it’s a cute plan, but his­tor­i­cal­ly cam­paigns launched on social media plat­forms, while cre­at­ing a gen­uine buzz online, fail to pro­duce the goods when it comes to get­ting peo­ple off their sofas and mak­ing good on their online sup­port when and where it counts.

Oba­ma Ahead in Social Media Race 

For the moment at least, Oba­ma is see­ing great returns from his social media and mobile adver­tis­ing invest­ment and is well ahead of the Rom­ney camp – despite their inno­v­a­tive con­tact-gath­er­ing app Rom­ney-Ryan. Cer­tain­ly more web-savvy, the President’s online pres­ence has greater sup­port on Face­book, Twit­ter and YouTube, although both cam­paigns are using tar­get­ed social media to allow users to drill down and browse top­ics by loca­tion and issue. It’s long been known that the more you can tai­lor your mes­sages, the more suc­cess­ful you will be, and this bespoke approach seems to be work­ing – for Oba­ma at least.

The Democ­rats’ mas­sive team – some 750 to Romney’s minis­cule 87 – means that Oba­ma is able to launch a tidal wave of infor­ma­tion on a dai­ly basis, reg­u­lar­ly out-tweet­ing and out-blog­ging Rom­ney, and match­ing him update-for-update on Face­book. Cur­rent­ly Obama’s Face­book page has 27 mil­lion lik­ers, while Rom­ney boasts just two mil­lion, although users active­ly engag­ing with the pages stand at 640,000 for Oba­ma and 240,000 for Rom­ney, and as a result his dig­i­tal team remain defiant.

“I give noth­ing but cred­it to the Oba­ma folks who run a very suc­cess­ful pro­gram with a very large staff that we are always amazed by,“said Zac Mof­fat, dig­i­tal direc­tor of the Rom­ney cam­paign. “In size they are clear­ly ahead, but in terms of engage­ment… they are not.”

At the moment, Oba­ma is clear­ly cre­at­ing the larg­er social media buzz but there still remains the ques­tion of whether gen­er­at­ing retweets and likes actu­al­ly leads to votes.

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