2012 was another banner year for social media. “Old stand-bys” like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube continued to gain traction, while newer platforms like Pinterest and Instagram proved there’s still room at the table for social sharing networks, provided they’re easy-to-use, innovative . . . and fun.
Looking back, what was the top social media story of the year? I’d have to say, the role that social media played in the presidential election is number one for me. I was fascinated by the ways voters (and the campaigns, themselves) used social media versus other forms of communication to discuss, debate or try to influence friends and followers on the merits or weaknesses of the candidates.
Pew Internet conducted research on this very topic, and released the results earlier this fall. A few days before the election, more than one thousand registered voters were asked if and how they shared information with others regarding whom they were voting for, and whether or not they urged others to choose one candidate over the other. About three-fourths (74 percent) of the registered voters polled indicated they had done at least one of those things, or both . . . and a significant amount of this political discussion took place on social media.
Nearly one in three stated they had been encouraged to vote for a specific candidate via social media, and 20 percent of voters admitted that they had used social media to encourage someone else to do so. Generational differences persisted, however. For example, nearly half (45 percent) of the registered voters under age 30 stated they had been urged to vote for a particular candidate via social media, and more than one-third in that same demographic said they had encouraged others to do so. When the same two questions were posed to adults between the ages of 50 and 64, the percentages dropped to 27 and 16, respectively.
Are either Democrats or Republicans more vocal on social media?
Not really. According to this study, 25 percent of Obama supporters and 20 percent of Romney supporters stated they posted their presidential preference on sites such as Facebook or Twitter, a difference that the researchers felt was not statistically significant. In fact, even when looking at other forms of communication, such as face-to-face or phone conversations, email and texting, the pro-Obama and pro-Romney camps were farily evenly matched. One notable exception was the 18 to 24 year olds, who were “considerably more likely” in face-to-face discussions to favor Obama.
The study also found that:
- In the 30 days leading up to the election, more than half (54 percent) of the registered voters surveyed stated they’d had a face-to-face discussion regarding the candidates. (Word-of-mouth remains a powerful marketing tool.)
- Female voters were more likely than males to receive social media encouragement to vote for a specific candidate.
- Almost one-third of respondents said they received the “get out and vote” message from a friend or family message by phone, and one in 10 were prodded via text messages.
- Only one in five indicated that someone they knew had contacted them by email regarding the upcoming election.
Social media channels are becoming more and more integrated into our daily lives, and they will continue to play an increasingly significant role in politics, business, entertainment, communication . . . you name it. I anticipate the New Year will bring even more headlines about the growing impact of social networks. If you’re a marketer, how are you planning to use social media to help your company gain a competitive edge?