Obama, Romney, an Orca, Zombies and Socal Media

obama-romney cloudThe company I now work for has a relationship with a market research firm that analyzed the effectiveness of social media in the Obama vs. Romney election for CBS.  As part of their findings they created a word cloud of the terms people on social media associated with each candidate. And that got me thinking about how quickly social media has evolved.

Back when I was at AOL during its grand ascent to being the largest social network in the world at that time, we realized that time progressed online at an accelerated rate and so we needed to a release new version of AOL about every six months or so to stay up-to-date with the competition. Part of that acceleration relates to Moore’s Law which stated (in 1965, mind you) that (paraphrased) computer capacity doubles every two years. That trend continues and with it the viral spread of social media. After all, Twitter is only 6 ½ years old, Facebook 8+ and LinkedIn a bit over 9 years old – and all of them (following the hockey stick graph of online social network growth) have really only come into their own in the last 5 years or so.

When viewed through the snapshot lens of a cyclical event that growth, and therefore impact, is magnified. Take, for example, the 2008 Olympics in Beijing which had some social media component, mainly relating to reporting outcomes before they were available on US television broadcasts, but four years later organizers of the London games, recognizing that the growth of social media influence was so relentless official policies for athletes were created and instituted for fear of affecting the performances of the athletes and the reputation of the games, became known as the “Social Media Games”.

And so it is with General Elections. Four years ago, Obama was the first to organize grassroots efforts in the social media environment and did so at a pace that dwarfed (both in size and effectiveness) anything the McCain camp had to offer. Four years later, social media is such a driver of political support that it was instrumental in re-electing the president and will be a requisite in all political campaigns going forward.

Two things some may find of interest:

 First, Orca
The Romney camp had a very ambitious plan to get out the vote (“GOTV”) named Project Orca so named because Obama’s GOTV program was named Project Narwhal after the whale – orcas are their only known predator (besides humans). In elections where both sides have ardent, dug-in  supporters and only a very small amount of “undecideds”, the side that gets more of its constituents to the polls – wins. In an example of attempting to leverage new technology – without hiring the necessary professionals (or enough of them) to run it – the result was a disastrous missed opportunity and colossal waste of money. Here’s a telling quote from a person involved in the hotly contested battleground state of Florida (29 electoral votes) which Obama won by 74K votes: “30,000+ of the most active and fired-up volunteers were wandering around confused and frustrated when they could have been doing anything else to help”. Using the vernacular of the popular social media network Twitter, Orca was, for this one state and perhaps more, truly a “Fail Whale”. The volunteers full story (note: the facts purported have not been confirmed by independent sources): The Unmitigated Disaster Known As Project ORCA

Second, Zombies
The word cloud surrounding the terms Obama and Romney showed a strong presence of the words “Joss” and “Whedon” on the Romney side. In case that doesn’t ring a bell, Joss Whedon is the creator of such fan-favorite sci-fi TV shows as: “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”; “Firefly”; “Angel” and the feature film series “The Avengers”, and he is certainly an influencer of fans of those shows. So much so, that the social media buzz created the impact displayed in the word cloud when he came out to “endorse” Romney, via a YouTube video, as being the best President to bring about the coming ‘Zombie Apocalypse’.

Orcas, narwhals and zombies may come and go — but social media is here to stay.

About Ron Casalotti
I am part of that lucky generation that started out when watching TV meant choosing from three networks, three independents and PBS. Now, I work in new media for businesses and organizations - but these thoughts are my own.

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