United States election, world economy and social media

Saturday, 17 November 2012 00:01 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

The entire world is always concerned about US elections. This is because of the dominant role play by the US in decision making and world politics, as well as in the world economy. Its nominal Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was estimated to be over $ 15 trillion in 2011, approximately a quarter of nominal global GDP.

Statistics prove that the United States is the largest trading nation in the world. Interestingly, among the world’s 500 largest companies, 133 are headquartered in the United States. In other words this is twice the total of any other country.

The country is ranked first globally in the IT industry competitiveness index. Even in the finance market we can see the dominant nature of the US. It is one of the world’s largest and most influential financial markets. The New York Stock Exchange (formally known as NYSE Euronext) is the world’s largest stock exchange by market capitalisation. So the influence of the US in world trade and economy cannot be underestimated by any means.

This time at the US election President Barack Obama handily defeated Gov. Mitt Romney and won a second term. In this second White House term Obama held a narrower lead in the popular vote count.

Following his election-day victory, US President Barack Obama took to Twitter where he tweeted ‘Four more years’ alongside a photo of him and embracing Michelle Obama. The tweet has since been re-tweeted over 769,000 timesObama scored a big win in Pennsylvania, followed by wins in the strategically swing states of Virginia, Colorado, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, and Michigan. The New York Times on 7 November 2012 has analysed some of the second terms of US presidents in past.

“It is almost a truism that second terms are less successful than first terms, especially domestically. Franklin Delano Roosevelt lost his hold on Congress with his 1937 plan to pack the Supreme Court. Ronald Reagan faced the 1986 Iran-contra scandal. Bill Clinton was impeached in 1998. Richard Nixon resigned to avoid that fate in 1974. Even George Washington had angry mobs surrounding his house in Philadelphia to denounce him for the Jay Treaty with Britain dealing with the aftermath of the Revolutionary War; they wanted him to side with France. But despite these and other failures, most second-term presidents also have accomplishments to be proud of, though perhaps shadowed by a tinge of failure.” (New York Times)

It is better to understand the most widely-discussed topics in the pre-election era, which helps voters to decide. According to the Associated Press (AP), the voters of America ranked the economy of the country as the top issue.

The survey of voters as they left polling places showed six in 10 ranked the economy the top issue. The majority who don’t yet see economic improvement were roughly divided over whether things were getting even worse or just stuck in place.

The role of online social networking services also cannot be underestimated in elections. More importantly Twitter has created records in this election. Following his election-day victory, Obama took to Twitter where he tweeted ‘Four more years’ alongside a photo of him and embracing Michelle Obama.

The tweet has since been re-tweeted over 769,000 times and rather quickly (22 minutes to be exact) eclipsed the previous re-tweet record of 320,000, which was held by none other than Justin Bieber (Bieber’s record of more than 200,000 re-tweets when the Canadian pop singer gave a tribute to a fan who was dying of cancer).

Even economic times reports conversations around the polls totalled 32 million tweets with 23 million tweets sent after the first poll closed. Nearly 3,000 Tweets per minute reference “I voted,” “#ivoted,” or similar terms, with the highest number of Tweets among swing states coming from Florida, Pennsylvania and Michigan.

Following are the most important factors which were widely discussed in the election time in Twitter.

1.The economy (32 per cent)

2.Foreign policy (17 per cent)

3.Taxes (14 per cent)

4.Energy and the environment (nine per cent)

5.Education (seven per cent)

Even Twitter also provides a window for international politics with many world leaders tweeting their congratulations, including Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and British Prime Minister David Cameron.

The creativity factor is also important in social media advertising. Interestingly as America went to the polls in the morning of Election Day, President Obama’s staff posted a picture of a young Barack and Michelle on Facebook in a sentimental attempt to secure votes.

The sepia image, which appears on Michelle Obama’s official page, is accompanied by a caption reading: “She voted for him for the same reason she married him – his character. Cast your ballot for President Obama today.”

As daily mail reports, Deen Freelon, a Professor at the American University in D.C., who has been analysing both presidential candidates’ Facebook pages during the campaign trail, revealed that the top five most-liked posts were nothing to do with politics, and were scenes from family life.

The picture of Barack and Michelle has attracted more than 170,000 ‘likes’ and thousands of comments. Even the president himself announced that he was going to embrace social media in early this year. His page has more than 32 million likes compared with just over 12 million for Mitt Romney.

So “social media” might be one factor that propel Barack Obama to victory (but needs more empirical evidences). The important of social media in political marketing can be seen and I think this will continue in future campaigns as well. Further we have to see how our politicians and leaders can get the help with creativity and innovations in social media.

(The writer is a Chartered Marketer and Consultant, Senior Lecturer in Marketing – Open University of Sri Lanka and a certified trainer for tutors and mentors in online learning. He holds an MBA (Colombo), B. Sc Mkt. (Special) (SJP), MCIM, Dip in MKT (UK), MSLIM, MAAT and Dip in CMA, Chartered Intermediate from ICASL.)

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