American politics in times gone by has been a game which has, more often than not, been played by those who have both the means and funds to mount campaigns. In other words: the rich. Indeed this is not just a trend which is found in the land of the free. Eton College, renowned for it’s educating the immensely rich, has produced 19 of Britain’s 53 Prime Ministers. Bush himself came from a family with a net worth of over $60 million and a father who took office several terms before him. Obama flipped this on its head by using a platform which did not require major wealth or a trust fund backing in order to communicate with voters.
Obama’s use of social media to both mount his campaign and communicate with voters is something which has been deemed groundbreaking by voters and fellow politicians alike. His use of social media enabled him to connect with voters on a personal as well as a political level, meaning people felt they were not just voting for Obama’s politics but voting for the charismatic family man himself. As a well educated yet not particularly financially endowed individual, the use of social media in his campaign was pivotal in paving his path to the White House.
The Bush campaign attempted to use similar but relatively archaic means of communicating with voters such as phone books, voter lists and direct mail which may have enabled him to contact voters. However it did not allow for the immediacy and conversational nature of Obama’s communication with voters which meant people felt connected to Obama like they had with no previous politicians.
Admittedly it was not social media which carried his campaign, it was Obama’s strict and stringent use of it as a vehicle and medium to convey his message which left people feeling connected and engaged with his politics as opposed to being merely lectured and talked at. This resulted in Obama having more than 20 times the Twitter followers McCain had.
This aided significantly with the funding of the Obama campaign, with 80% of his total $658.7 million campaign pot coming from $20 or less donations , it can be seen how Obama’s ability to connect with voters on a personal level gave him access to funds which had previously remained untapped. If we then compare this to McCain’s 20.9 million dollars raised, we can see how Obama’s access to an extra 450,000 followers had such a marked impact on his finances. This allowed Obama to outspend the husband of the immensely rich Cindy McCain at a crushing 7 to 1 level, in states such as Indiana, on TV and other media platforms. Therefore we can see how through Obama’s utilising of social media he managed to address and access people, not actually on social media platforms, and engage an even wider audience.
Overall Obama’s utilising of social media as a vehicle to communicate with the American people meant that he branded himself as a human being as opposed to a faceless political campaign. This allowed for Obama to raise the funds to portray this image on other media formats so that he could spread this general image and gain public support in order to seize the White House. Ultimately Obama’s campaign can be seen as a flagship and master class in how social media can aid with PR and raising renown for a specific cause and indeed a business. The personal platform which social media provides companies, small and big, enables for them to appeal to customers on a personal level, increasing brand awareness and sales like never before.