Social networking communities and technologies can affect the outcome of the presidential political campaign for the following reasons.
The Obama campaign used YouTube videos, Facebook and applications, RSS feed, and websites to support his campaign at the Democratic Convention recently. Obama currently has approximately 1.2 million supporters on Facebook. Obama’s original interactive user application help build his online support base. The campaign’s latest Facebook application takes voter involvement a step further, by allowing supporters to set up grassroots organizing events such as meetings, fundraisers, voter registration activities, phone banks, or community service.
The McCain party has also embraced online communities like “McCain Nation,” a page on the campaign’s Web site that helps grassroots groups by allowing them to stage and locate other McCain supporters and activities. Since the spring of ‘08, the McCain campaign has been aggressive in developing several more user applications on the social networking community Facebook. Some of these include a video tour of McCain’s bus, video game, and user access to McCain campaign advertisements.
As we move closer to Election Day, the odds are that both parties will increase their support base in the popular social networking communities, as well as others like Twitter, MySpace, Friendster, Bebo, Facebook, and blogs. Will the supporters within these online communities call the election prior to having all votes counted? Will these online supporters affect voter turn out on Election Day by thinking their choice for president has already won or lost the election? Currently Obama has a lead over McCain in terms of support on Facebook. Obama has approximately 1.2 million supporters while McCain has approximately 183,000 on this site. Both the Republication and Democratic conventions were aggressively covered with a Mobile/PC application called Twitter (used by professional, cultural niche groups, and others), providing real time news and reactions of the event. While Twitter may not be in widespread use currently, it has a strong support base of users and is growing. We will have to wait and see how influential these social networking technologies and communities are in motivating their supporters to act in a Presidential election. We already know they are a powerful tool in gathering supporters; hopefully they will not be used to discourage voters by making inaccurate or early reporting release (who is ahead) statements. The major TV news networks have in the past, negatively affecting voter turnout on Election Day. By Peter Sabbagh
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