Romney vs Obama: Social Communicators?

As Romney seems to emerge as the survivor of the 14th round of the Republican slug-fest of recent months, he has little time to recover as he directs his media fist to Obama’s well-funded corner of the ring. I’d be surprised if the President isn’t quite pleased with the blood and sweat, and money drenched towels piled up in Romney’s corner from his media fight with formidable opponents including Gingrich, Santorum, Paul and others.

As a public relations communicator, I envision Obama’s people writing press releases and ads even now using the very conservative criticism dished out by not Obama, but by other conservatives. And, Obama hasn’t really broken a sweat yet!

While Romney may have “plenty cash” still available from Super PACs, Obama has let Republicans do his dirty work of smearing Romney before the November battle is truly engaged.  Keeping this in mind, Romney has yet to see the wrath of the Obama social media machine.  A juggernaut credited with much of the President’s campaign against a much less social media savvy McCain, the book “Yes, We Did” profiles a team of some 35+ volunteers who frankly kicked McCain’s “social butt!”

This time around, you can count on the Internet and social media as an extra swing state worth of support. Consider this: More adults visited President Barack Obama’s campaign website in January than the four Republican hopefuls combined. (source: AP) According to Nielsen Co., which analyzed voter-aged traffic to the official presidential campaign websites. About 4.2 million people visited Obama’s site, compared to 830,000 for Ron Paul’s and 773,000 for Mitt Romney’s. Just 696,000 people visited Rick Santorum’s site and 609,000 visited Newt Gingrich’s.

I’m not sure how he got my email address, but I had to eventually block the flood of Obama spam coming into my inbox uninvited.  And, this time around Obama doesn’t just have to depend on younger tech-savvy liberal supporters.  More than half of his website visitors are the silver generation over 50 who believe the President  can somehow control runaway spending while not affecting Social Security and Medicare.

A few other thoughts:

  • Obama was the first of these candidates to successfully use social media. Romney’s staff, in many ways, has to mirror what Obama already did four years ago, and what may be out-dated social tactics.
  • Social media thrives on “counter-culture” movements (protests, populism, unconventional thinking). In 2008, Obama represented “change” and “hope” which resonated well on the Internet. Today, he IS the establishment, so he will have a greater challenge fostering that same kind of grassroots social media movement.
  • There’s a lot of talk that this is becoming one of the dirtiest campaigns we’ve seen, on both sides. Part of that is because of Super PACs, and part of it is because Obama doesn’t have much to run on if the economy is still struggling. But also, what’s often overlooked, is that Super PACs and other social media-savvy activists are going to take their dirty work to Web.  Since negative ads, parodies, gaffes, and other harsh content goes viral much faster than positive content, that will only fuel the fire.
So, if you are a Romney supporter, you may think twice about sitting on the social media sidelines because you “ain’t seen nothin’ yet! It will take more than “a village” to raise Romney to the presidency. It will take millions of grass roots supporters online as well.

Which candidate has an advantage in savvy Social Media strategy?

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About the Author:

As founder of PilmerPR, John Pilmer, APR serves as a PR and marketing communications advisor for both emerging and established companies. He offers customers more than 20 years of results-driven business PR and marketing experience. John and the firm have provided PR consultation and campaigns for clients such as Mozy, Novell, AdvancedMD, Certiport, NextPage, ElectraTherm, Altiris, Avamar, EmergeCore Networks, FSLogic, INVISUS, 10x Marketing, MWI, Project Insight, REIC, Seastone, US Synthetic and Funding Universe (now Lendio), among others.
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