Barack’s Youth Vote Energized by Social Media

Youth Vote for Obama - Picture by Washington PostAccording to CIRCLE, a nonpartisan research center studying youth engagement and civic education, without the youth vote, Barack Obama might have had one heck of a time winning this year’s election. That’s just how energized and how active a part in the campaign the youth vote has became. The youth overall turned out in record numbers this year. Although the increase might not seem big at first, a conservative estimate is only at 1% right now since votes are technically still being counted with the absentee and early voter ballots from 30+ states, that percentage is sure to rise.

Young Voters Favored Barack Obama 2 to 1

The youth vote was amazing, especially in Obama’s case. Voters in they age group of 18-29 voted for Obama 66% to McCain’s 32%, that’s over a 2 to one advantage. When you look at the higher age brackets, above 45 and especially above 65, McCain did better. Apparently thought, there were a lot more youth coming out to vote to overcome the over 65 difference that favored McCain.

When you also stop to think that this youth vote was also partially responsible for helping to get the word out and even drive people to the polls, the Obama campaign owes that age group a debt a gratitude. Without them, it might have been impossible to win, especially in those traditional red states. What’s even more impressive, these young voters broke away from the tradition of following their parents’, meaning that they made up their own minds and didn’t vote for a candidate because their Mother or Father did.

Barack Obama Engaged Youth Vote Through Social Media

Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, Flickr, YouTube, AIM, Yahoo Messenger. Today’s youth, or “The Millenials” as they are called by the media, generally discuss or consult everything with their social networks online before they make a decision. Morley Winograd & Michael D. Hais, the co-authors of “Millennial Makeover: MySpace, YouTube, and the Future of American Politics”, classify this group as the “Barney” generation. That’s right, that big ol’ purple dinosaur is back to torture us again, but in this case its lead this segment of the population to figure out their problems together, and that’s why this age group is turning to these social media sites.

Barney Generation - Photo from PBS KidsThe Barack Obama campaign figured out that utilizing the social media platforms to engage the youth in issues that they care about the most – paying for college, energy independence, the environment, health care, etc., was the most effective way to get them engaged. By having already engaged supporters reach out to their own network of friends, the “fire”, “buzz”, “movement” just spread. From the original networks, it spread to the friends-of-friends-of-friends. The engaged volunteers helped to make over 1 million calls, put up road signs, hand out stickers, drive voters to the polls, register their neighbors as voters and even write in independent blogs so their own network of peers could be informed about the campaign and the issues it was taking a stand on.

Not only did they write in blogs, they made videos, they took pictures, they created art online, they had contests and online watch parties. All of these promoted through social media. This all leads me to call Barack Obama the First Social Media President.

The question now becomes can Barack Obama continue to keep these young voters energized and actively engaged in these civic roles they just filled? Can he continue to tap into their mindset to help him look at issues as he governs in the White House, or will they just do like every other campaign has done in the past …. and forget about these enthusiastically charged voters? That’s the real question.

What Can Companies Take Away from Obama’s Use of Social Media?

Companies can certainly look at the strategies employed by the Obama campaign and learn a heck of a lot. If you are trying to reach the ages of 18 up to even 40, Social Media is definitely a way to actively engage with and audience who can become very enthusiastic and charged up. They can also easily communicate through mediums readily available and already active, rather than building out whole new marketing ideas, plans, strategies and so forth.

Social Media is definitely going main stream, especially after this election. Marketers will look to what it did for Obama’s campaign and think “I want that success, too!” Unfortunately it doesn’t always instantly translate for everyone. The key is to have a strategy and know where your audience is. If you don’t know that, it’s pretty much like throwing spaghetti at the wall and hoping it sticks.

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