October 22, 2012
Four years ago, when Facebook was one-tenth its size today and before smart phones were the norm, Obama pioneered the use of social media in presidential politics. Today, with the Internet an integral part of people’s lives, Obama’s campaign again has the upper hand, leveraging its ability to communicate with masses on different platforms in ways that weren’t possible in 2008. Yet 2012 may present the first test of whether it makes a difference.
“Obama is operating at a different order of magnitude than Romney just in terms of raw numbers,” said Nicco Mele, a professor at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, who studies the integration of social media and politics. “We’re effectively in the dark ages of this. The eco- system is just so different and so new. It’s really hard to figure out what is actually going to matter.”
That was 34 percent of his total receipts from individuals over the course of the campaign. The numbers for Obama far exceeded Romney’s $39.5 million from small donors, which amount to 18 percent of his total, the center found.
“Social media is very good at talking to people who agree with you and convincing them to take more actions but it’s really not clear if it’s good at changing someone’s mind,” said Mele, who directed Internet operations for Democrat Howard Dean’s 2004 presidential primary campaign. “A lot of the activity online is preaching to the choir in order to significantly boost online fundraising.”