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Friday, November 14, 2008

Social Media, The Elections, What It Means For Marketing

Image from MyBarackObama/loveleeannwise.
Can you believe this amazing 2008 Presidential Election and all of the firsts that it represents including the role that social media played? It's sure to have implications for marketing.

The firsts are impressive.

A record number of voters participated in this year's election with turnout being between 59% [125 million] and 64% [136 million] of the voting public. [As of 11/10/08, per Wikipedia, the count stands at 126.5 million.]

According to Election by the numbers, the winning candidate - President-elect Barack Obama - received more popular votes than any other presidential candidate [current tally is 66.7 million votes or 52.7% vs. 58.2 million or or 46% for McCain per Wikipedia.]

In terms of demographics, the article refers to the groups that voted overwhelmingly for Obama: women, blacks and latinos; young people and first time voters, residents from large as well as small cities and suburbs. He also "carried majorities in all educational groups," and "a narrow majority of men."

Perhaps not a blowout, as the New York Times writes, but still a clear-cut win for a change, and also a strong mandate for all, regardless of political preference, to come together to find solutions.

The other first has to do with the extensive use of social media.  Everything leading up to and winning the election made use of social media as Josh Bernoff describes in his post Barack Obama, will you tap the groundswell?  It's even starting to look like solving many of our country's problems will also make use of social media [see Change.gov]. 

What is clear, is that social media is here to stay, with value to offer marketers and business people alike, as proven recently by politics.  Something that several recent events helped me to better understand.

Arianna Huffington put social media and the elections into perspective for me when I heard her speak at the MarketingProfs Digital Mixer. Were you aware that in 2004 -when we last had a Presidential election- neither YouTube nor Huffington Post existed, and Facebook had limited relevance?

That's very recent history.  I only became fully engaged in social media in 2006. I was aware of and monitoring it in 2005, with peripheral awareness in 2004. But, still.

Consider these stats: Blogger was launched in 1999 and purchased by Google in 2003. YouTube was started in 2005 [and acquired by Google in 2006]. Facebook began in 2004. MySpace started in 2003. These are all tools I admire and rely on for marketing, communication and community building. I had never considered them in terms of the political process.

In my next few posts, I will share with you observations from a recent Columbia Business School Alumni Club of NY event about social media and the presidential elections, a Fall BRITE '08 presentation during which we learned more about MyBo.com, and marketing lessons drawn from this Election.

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