Thursday, January 5, 2012

Amidst all the Iowa noise from last night and today's announcement about the end of Michele Bachmann's presidential bid, something else happened: President Obama quietly joined social photo sharing app Instagram. Obama joined with the username @barackobama and has since posted two photos. The first one is of him speaking via videoconference to Iowa caucus-goers. The second is a photo of people watching the videoconference and is captioned "You guys inspire me every single day."

This is yet another instance of the president using social media to reach and engage with the younger demographic that helped him get elected four years ago. With the GOP edging in on social media, however, will this same strategy help him win in 2012?

 An older Republican gentleman named Ron Paul rode the viral wave last night. If social media could have accurately predicted the Iowa Caucus, Paul would have won. The Wall Street Journal reported that Paul was "drawing heavy support from younger voters, particularly those under age 30." In the end, that wave crashed and Mitt Romney won, drawing backing from older voters ages 50-and-up.

A 2010 study from the academic journal Mass Communication and Society, looked at college students' use of social media for political purposes in the 2008 election. Data collected from a Web survey of college students found that "attention to social media was not significantly related to political self-efficacy or involvement." Online expression, it found, was situational. This sort of situational online political involvement accounts for viral video hits, buzz on Twitter and super-sharing on Facebook. But does it translate to action?