The First Twitter Election

Over 31 million tweets clogged the Internet on Election Day 2012. In the moments following President Obama’s win, Twitter peaked with a rate of 327,000 tweets a minute.

On November 6, 2012, at 11:14 PM, before he took the stage at McCormick Center in Chicago, President Barack Hussein Obama’s 22,562,518 Twitter followers got the scoop before the big TV networks:

“This happened because of you. Thank you,” the President tweeted.

Two minutes later, President Obama made history again. This time it was social media history. At 11:16 PM the tweet you see below would become the most retweeted of all time. As of this writing, at about 6:30 AM on November 7, the tweet has been retweeted 579,120 times, surpassing the record set by Justin Bieber in just 22 minutes.

“Twitter brought people closer to almost every aspect of the election this year,” Twitter spokeswoman Rachael Horwitz said. “From breaking news, to sharing the experience of watching the debates, to interacting directly with the candidates, Twitter became a kind of nationwide caucus.”

Social media, especially Twitter and Facebook, are shaping public opinion and becoming the most powerful tools in politics. A Pew Research Center study found that 25 percent of users surveyed say they became more active in regard to a political issue after discussing it or reading posts about it on social media.

Facebook posted a message on all their users’ pages offering to help them find their polling place and urging them to “tell your friends you voted.”  Surveys have shown that Facebook users that clicked on the “I voted” button in that message were 3 to 4 times more likely to vote.

Rob Johnson, campaign manager for Texas Republican Governor Rick Perry, said “We no longer click refresh on websites or wait for the paperboy to throw the news on our porch. We go to Twitter and learn the facts before others read it.”

You can bet that social media will play an even bigger role in future elections. Candidates that want to win will need to master it. Their campaign staffs will begin planning their strategies around social media. 

After this campaign is dissected and examined, lessons about the use of social media will be discovered that will have a profound effect on how everyone uses it – businesses, charities, and anyone else that uses persuasion and exposure to ideas, to advance their goals.


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