To best answer the question regarding the influences of mobile technology on election processes and outcomes, it is important to look back upon the influence it had on the presidential election of 2008. Then candidate Barack Obama utilized technology in ways that were unprecedented in campaign politics, setting new standards for ad placement and saturation. There were advertisements placed within video games and supporters could receive text message updates informing them of actions needed to help the campaign effort. At the time, the techniques of the Obama campaign were somewhat revolutionary. Just four years later the same techniques are less engaging and less effective as potential voters are more tech-savvy and have higher expectations in regard to mobile user experience. We have all been bombarded by increasingly engaging and interactive advertising methods, and as a result, we are less impressed by the methods used last time around. The teams behind each candidate’s mobile communication strategy will have to be cutting edge and thoughtful when preparing for the upcoming election, which is right around the corner.
Take, as an example of the changing face of mobile tech consumers, the increase in tablet owners. Surveys have indicated that 83% of smartphone and tablet users are registered voters, making communication through those devices absolutely mandatory for any serious candidate for a public office. Campaign leaders will have to be flexible to succeed in connecting with the population armed with tablets and other mobile devices which they all interact with in their own unique ways. Trying to connect with the vast number of the growing percentage of voters who get news and information through mobile applications with only one strategy will almost certainly fall short.
While President Obama set the bar for campaign utilization of mobile communication technology back in 2008, his challengers coming from the Republican Party who are trying to unseat the incumbent are forced to step up their mobile strategies accordingly. Republicans made strides in matching Democratic use of mobile communication during the 2010 mid-term elections. Mitt Romney and Michele Bachman are using Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube extensively to get the word out about their policy ideas and their criticisms of the current administrations’ policies. Romney introduced his candidacy via his Facebook page and the introduction of the Twitter hashtag #mitt2012. Bachman made a great deal of news when she live streamed online her Tea Party response to the State of the Union Address. While it occurred before she declared her candidacy, it displayed an increase in usage of mobile and Internet-based communication.
No one can predict which candidate will best use Twitter or Facebook (among others) to communicate with the voters before we head to the polls in November. The nature of the medium lends itself toward unpredictability. What is for certain is that with traditional methods of mass communication, such as TV, radio, and print are becoming less relevant. Whoever takes most advantage of new media, mobile chief among them, might well see themselves at the top of the political heap when the votes are counted less than one year from today.
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