President Obama and Social Media

Social media and technology is an evolving study of the complexity of human communication. Interpreting how social media and technology affects culture, relationships, and messages is important for understanding President Obama used these tools to his advantage during the 2008 and 2012 elections. By examining President Obama’s choices of social media use during his campaigns, a better comprehension of communication is developed for understanding the relationship that humans create with social media and technology.

The Role of Social Media

Social media has been labeled an equalizer in communication because this computer mediated communication method offers any Internet user a platform from which to speak. A significant part of social media is social networking sites, which are, “websites that function as online communities of users” (Baran, 2014, p. 242). Understanding the nature of how online social networking functions is necessary for analyzing how communities of Internet users engaged with Presidential candidates in the 2008 and 2012 campaigns.

An interesting and profound aspect of social media is the ability to connect users instantly across the United States as well as the globe. Within the spectrum of social networking, Internet users can find, identify, and share with people of similar interests, which has been an important component in politics (Buss, & Eschedor Voelker, 2014). This ability to connect users of similar interests has had significant benefits for political candidates. Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton has written articles for the list-sharing site Buzzfeed, which has had a positive effect for his public image. Dayton campaign manager Katharine Tinucci stated, “we found [the lists] can reach an audience we don’t typically interact with” (Bierschbach, 2014, para. 6). Dayton’s lists act as free advertising for his campaign, which is one many benefits politicians find useful through social media platforms.

Obama Campaign 2008

The effect of the great equalizer that is social media is apparent in President Obama’s 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns. Social media creates nonlinear method of processing political information. Milner (2013) states, “social media politics is the form of political participation of a generation whose link to the political world is primarily via the Internet, making it distinct from previous generations for whom the link was through print, radio and television” (para. 27). The social media applications of Obama’s Presidential campaigns were noticeably different from 2008 to 2012 because Obama was able to interact with voters and Internet users directly.

Although the ubiquity of social media was not present in 2008, Obama used multiple available social networking platforms to reach a larger audience than his opponents did. These social networking platforms were instrumental in his success because platforms allowed him to interact with directly with voters by circumventing traditional media (Pew Research Center’s Journalism Project Staff, 2012). Twitter, YouTube, MySpace, a personal website, and text messaging were all used as methods for reaching voters. Obama demonstrated his knowledge by appealing to younger voters, which benefited him in the 2012 election.

Obama Campaign 2012

The Presidential Election of 2012 was a meritorious event in the panorama of social media in the United States. Obama’s digital presence signified a new method for interacting with American voters. Unlike the 2008 campaign where Obama was limited to interacting with a smaller number of social media users, the 2012 campaign increased his presence online exponentially. In addition to the existing social networking sites he used in 2008, he added 11 additional networking components including Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit, which provided him a significant edge in the election. Reddit AMA, which is referred to as the front page of the Internet (Sjoberg, 2013), is a powerful social media website that Obama used to his advantage during his 2012 campaign. Obama’s Reddit AMA brought “200,000 people to the conversation, and 1.8 million subscribed to the thread” (Fox, 2012, para. 20) generating critical conversation in the voting landscape.

The success of President Obama’s social media marketing campaign in 2012 was formed largely because of his campaign actions in 2008. His choice to reach American voters through social media changed how dialogue is established in Presidential elections. The Pew Research Center indicates, “voters are playing an increasingly large role in helping to communicate campaign messages, while the role of the traditional news media as an authority or validator has only lessened” (Pew Research Center’s Journalism Project Staff, 2012, para. 20). The role of social media as an equalizer is reflected through the application of President Obama’s social media marketing campaigns. Voters as well as potential voters are able to interact in real time with future Presidential candidates.


After analyzing the effects of social media on the Presidential elections in 2008 and 2012, a clear conclusion is apparent; social media levels the playing field of the campaigning process by allowing voters and candidates to interact with each other. The tools of social media and technology are furthering innovations in human communication including creating balanced, informative, and interactive communication methods and channels. By examining how the tools of social media work in the campaign process, a better understanding of how technology affects culture, relationships, and messages is developed.


Baran, S. J., (2015), Introduction to Mass Communication Media Literacy and Culture. (8th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Bierschbach, B., (September, 2014), How social media is changing political campaigns in Minnesota. MinnPost. Retrieved from

Buss, C. W., & Eschedor Voelker, T. J. (2014). Encyclopedia of Social Media and Politics. Reference & User Services Quarterly, 54(1), 64. Retrieved from,ip,url,cpid&custid=shapiro&db=a2h&AN=98545924&site=ehost-live

Fox, Z., (2012, September), The Digital Smackdown: Obama 2008 vs. Obama 2012. Mashable. Retrieved from

Milner, H. (2013, Winter). Social media politics. Inroads, 25-38. Retrieved from

Pew Research Center’s Journalism Project Staff (August 2012), How the Presidential Candidates Use the Web and Social Media, Pew Research Center. Retrieved from

Sjoberg, L. (2013, 05). Reddit. Wired, 21, 126. Retrieved from


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