Obama Uses New Media For Youth Vote
by AJ Block


How did Barack Obama go from a minor presidential hopeful to becoming a realistic contender? While many factors have been attributed to this shift, much can be attributed to Obama’s support by the increasingly important youth vote. “In practically every state holding a primary or caucus [on Super] Tuesday, youth turnout increased astronomically, doubling, tripling and even quadrupling the turnout in the 2000 and 2004 electoral seasons,” according to an MTV article. The youth bloc (consisting of voters ages 19-29) was key for Obama’s victory in many of the states he won, the article claimed.

But how is Barack Obama getting through to reach this youngest voting demographic? A huge part of Obama’s outreach takes place on the internet. Barack Obama is the only major candidate showing a strong, personalized presence on both Facebook and YouTube. These two websites are some of the most visited on the internet and are frequented most notably by younger citizens of voting age. This gives college students and other young voters, to whom these new media outlets have become a daily presence, greater accessibility to the Illinois senator, and vice-versa.

In fact, Barack Obama seems to be the only candidate making content specifically for internet users through these already popular channels. Logging on to his Facebook page, his “Information” section looks like that of any authentic college student. Barack lists his favorite music (Stevie Wonder), movies (Casablanca), TV shows (SportsCenter), and other personal information that cannot be seen on CNN or MSNBC. The first videos on Obama’s page are relevant and up to date, including his speech on Super Tuesday and a music video made by Black Eyed Peas singer Will.I.am that incorporates sound clips from many of Obama’s speeches.

Hillary Clinton’s Facebook profile, on the other hand, seems to be a place to heap all of her campaign content that has already been used elsewhere. Unlike Obama’s page, Hillary’s chooses not to share any personal details, and her information section consists of the same one paragraph summary of her accomplishments that is found on every other one of her web pages. On top of that, her page feels kind of dead, and doesn’t really offer the instant inside information that Obama’s page does. If Facebook is designed to facilitate personal interaction between the candidate and his or her constituents, Hillary falls short. It’s not that she doesn’t fill out any of her favorite books or movies, rather, she doesn’t let the reader into her life outside of the campaign.

You may be thinking, who cares if Hillary doesn’t have a good Facebook page, that will not determine the election. But consider the following statistics. On February 7, 2008, Barack Obama had 403,950 Facebook supporters while Hillary Clinton had 97,111. Obama has over four times as many supporters on Facebook than Clinton! This becomes even more significant knowing that, as various sources claim, somewhere between 75 and 85 percent of college students use Facebook regularly and that Facebook is the seventh most visited website on the internet. While Facebook obviously doesn’t represent everything for our generation, the difference in online content quality and the resultant support, can end up determining this extremely close nomination contest.

YouTube has also been a huge battlefield in this clash of presidential hopefuls. Barack Obama’s campaign has utilized YouTube, the number one internet video source, to its greatest extent. The night of George W. Bush’s 2008 State of the Union address, both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton went on major TV news programs to give their response. But Barack Obama didn’t stop there. He went home and recorded a five minute video response on YouTube, specifically intended for viewers on the internet. The video, which came out at the end of January, already has over a million views. Like most of his significant internet videos, it rapidly received widespread publicity through traditional media outlets, as well as on new social media sites such as Digg and Stumble Upon. These sites let users rate content, such as videos, articles, and images, by voting on it. The more votes a website gets, the better chance it has to reach the millions of users of these new platforms. This, in turn, lets internet users do some of the campaign marketing themselves by easily spreading the candidates’ message.

Internet marketing guru Seth Godin has declared a tie for his 2007 Marketer of the Year award on his personal blog. The winners are Barack Obama and Ron Paul, both of whom have “let the web drive the entire tone of marketing and development.” Both have a “willingness to stand out and do things that people want to talk about,” and a “focus on authentic storytelling,” says Godin, who has been hired by Google as an outside marketing consultant.

Barack Obama stands out in this election because of his original internet content. Obama Girl, who’s “I’ve Got a Crush on You” video has received almost 6 million views and Will.i.am’s “Yes We Can” music video, with over 2.5 million hits, are just a few of the examples of how Barack Obama is getting his name and uplifting message to all internet users. To top it off, Obama’s campaign logo, a circle with a red and white earth and a light blue sky, is original and modern. Even Hillary’s campaign posters are using the traditional looking flags that are exchangeable with those of any other non-Obama candidate. This originality keeps Obama’s campaign interesting and keeps his supporters coming back for more.

If you haven’t seen Barack Obama’s or any other candidates’ Facebook pages or YouTube channels, have a look and see for yourself why his campaign has such a greater internet presence than that of any other candidate. The content speaks for itself.