Reddit, Twitter, and Chairs, Oh My!

Yellow Brick Road: From Oz to Oval Office

During the 2008 presidential election, voter turnout was up 5 million over 2004. From Oz to Oval Office, the 2012 campaign trail is entirely different. Social media had a significant impact on previous campaigns, signifying a cultural shift in voter turnout was happening from behind the curtain of the internet. Now, candidates seek new ways to leverage social media for both messaging and for staying on message.

“Values may ‘matter most’ to voters, but they always take a backseat to the needs of money once the elections are won. This is a basic earmark of the phenomenon, absolutely consistent across its decades-long history. Abortion is never halted. Affirmative action is never abolished.” Frank, Thomas (2005). What’s the Matter With Kansas?


Leading up to the Republican National Convention, President Obama launched an impromptu AMA (“Ask Me Anything”) Town Hall on Reddit, overloading the site and generating 4 million Reddit visitors. From that single event, which hit the social media scene with flash-mob fashion, an additional 25,000 voters registered on the Team Obama 2012 website. It’s important to note that the POTUS had carved out thirty-minutes from his day job, allowing him enough time to answer just 10 questions from the public before returning to his busy schedule.

The Rom-ination

Romney 2012 was the first political campaign to purchase a trending topic topic on Twitter. The hashtag for the promoted topic, #RomneyRyan2012, which ran during the Republican National Convention, had 28,935 appearances on August 30, 2012. However, the campaign’s peak day for the Twitter hashtag was on August 11 when The New York Times broke the story; it had 114, 181 appearances on Twitter.

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Speaking Up

For the most part, the RNC was somewhat uneventful. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spoke about the importance of the presidential election from a foreign policy perspective, but no one campaigning on behalf of the the Republican nominee for commander-in-chief bothered to mention Afghanistan or the brave men and women still stationed there. Overall, the convention was lacking those “memorable moments” that would provide necessary soundbites and video play for the party throughout the duration of the campaign. In fact, speakers at the RNC gave Obama more mentions than Romney during their speeches.

Sitting Out

The highlight of the RNC, from a social media perspective, came when award-winning actor, director, and activist Clint Eastwood took to the podium alongside an empty chair and proceeded to have a conversation with an “invisible Obama.” Eastwood closed his speech with his famous last words, “Go ahead. Make my day,”  and reminded us why no one in the Romney campaign should be allowed to ad lib. While this wasn’t quite as epic as Howard Dean’s “I Have a Scream” speech, the entire skit by one of Hollywood’s greatest icons set the social media sector ablaze, with the parody account, @invisibleobama on Twitter, racking up 35,000 followers within hours.

The internet responded accordingly, scorning empty chairs across the country, and the new hashtag #Eastwooding was born.

On the road to the White House, the incumbent currently has the greater share of the social media voice. When all was said and done, President Obama tweeted this photo, stating, “This seat’s taken.” Indeed, there’s no place like home.

The Democratic National Convention airs next week.

From Twitter:
Clint Eastwood on the phone with Obama now: “It all went according
to plan,sir.” #RNC #GOP2012— Chris Rock (@chrisrockoz) August 31, 2012
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