Is Obama Really Winning the 2012 Digital Race?

Even well before President Obama’s recent Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything), which drew so much traffic that it crashed the social news service’s servers, President Obama had already exhibited an incredible affinity towards the powerful technology that powers many of the world’s top social media networks.

First, it was during his 2008 election campaign in which President Obama, with the help of  former Facebook cofounder Chris Hughes, took the social media and mobile world by storm, attracting 66% of the under 30 vote.

In that same year (2008), he flexed his own penchant for all things digital by introducing a mobile application — something that, at the time, was relatively untrodden ground — that informed supporters on the latest events in the area, allowed them to sign-up for updates about the President Obama campaign, and even encouraged them to contact their friends and get them on the President Obama bandwagon.

Then, several years later, he hosted a White House town hall meeting in partnership with Twitter, leveraging the information freight train that is Twitter in order to answer questions that Twitter users posted about his own domestic and foreign policies, and the future of the Obama presidency.

Then he joined Instagram in early 2011, becoming, “almost a hipster,” according to the Huffington Post, and racking up well over 1 million followers in the process.

And now, recently, President Obama hosted an ‘Ask Me Anything’ on Reddit — a social news website that’s been known for having an incredibly dedicated, albeit young audience — that garnered over 2.5 million page views, and 22,000 comments, according to the Washington Post.

And although it may appear that, almost universally, President Obama is always a step ahead in the digital race, let’s first look at the numbers.

By The Numbers

From a purely numbers standpoint, President Obama clearly has a huge advantage over Mitt Romney, having close to 20 million Twitter followers, over 25 million Facebook likes, and over 1 million Instagram followers. A lot of that is simply due to the fact that President Obama has developed his network of followers over a much longer period than Romney, who, on the other hand, has just over 1 million Twitter followers, 6 million Facebook likes, and a paltry 33,000 followers on Instagram.

But as we know, numbers don’t necessarily mean anything if that individual (or organization) can’t get those followers engaged. And although President Obama has had great success in cultivating a massive community of followers, according to Zac Moffatt, Romney’s digital chief, those followers are only engaging with President Obama at a rate of roughly 1.5%. In essence, for every 200 people that see a President Obama post, only 3 of them are engaging with that post in some manner, according to Moffatt.Is Obama Really Winning the Digital Race?

Romney’s rate of engagement, on the other hand? 27%.

Beyond that, Romney seems to be consistently ahead of President Obama as far as actual engagement on his Facebook fan page, racking up hundreds of thousands of likes, comments and shares on his posts, on average, and having engagement rates that, relative to his Facebook fan base, seem to far outpace President Obama’s own engagement rates.

Will This Determine the Winner?

And the question, of course, is whether or not the success of either one of these campaigns in the social media world will determine the winner.

In 2008, many argued that it played a huge role in President Obama’s election, and judging by the numbers — 66% of the under 30 vote — it most likely did.

But that was when social media was relatively new, and when it wasn’t nearly as common for brands and individuals to leverage it in order to gain recognition.

Now, it’s extremely common for politicians and brands to leverage those platforms in order to garner votes, or to sell products, and it’s not exactly something that stands out.

But doing a Reddit AMA, on the other hand, definitely stands out, and it might help Obama maintain his dominance of the under 30 demographic.

Which candidate do you think is doing a better job leveraging social media?