How to Track the 2012 Presidential Campaign Through Social Media

The 2012 presidential election may not have all the elements that made the 2008 contest a historical one, but it’s certainly building off of its media presence. Four years ago, we saw campaigns and the journalists who cover them go beyond traditional media outlets – television, radio, newspapers and magazines – and start using new mediums such as blogs, Facebook and Twitter.

With the 2012 election cycle officially kicking off last week with the Iowa caucus, social media is playing an even bigger role than it did in 2008 — and with new platforms for campaigns and media outlets to take advantage of:

  • Foursquare: The location-based social media platform, which allows users to “check-in” to various places and earn rewards for visiting frequently, announced it would partner with NBC News for the 2012 election. The “Campaign Check-Ins” feature is part of NBCPolitics.com, NBC News’ new election news Web site. It will track each GOP candidate’s campaign stop during the primaries and general election, as well as check-ins from NBC News’ team of campaign embeds. This brand-new venture (it didn’t launch until January) will give consumers a new way to understand “where and why” a presidential campaign makes the moves that it does.
  • Instagram: The popular iPhone app has also been embraced by NBC News’ campaign embeds, who post photos from various events and life on the campaign trail: Alex Moe is covering Newt Gingrich; Anthony Terrell covers Ron Paul; Carrie Dann is with the Rick Perry campaign; Jo Ling Kent covers Jon Huntsman; and Garrett Haake is covering Mitt Romney. What sets Instagram apart from other photo-sharing sites is that it can be used on the go (currently from an iPhone, and soon from an Android phone) and photos can be cross-posted to Twitter, Facebook and Flickr (so you don’t have to be an Instagram user to see them.) Oh, and the photo filters are pretty cool.
  • Tumblr: Touted as “the easiest way to blog”, this micro-blogging site features a variety of posting options — from plain text to photos to audio and video, thousands of customizable themes and the ability to send posts to Twitter or an RSS feed. With nearly 40 million active users, it’s quickly become popular among media outlets such as NPR and The Daily. Even President Obama is getting in on the action: his re-election campaign recently launched a blog through the site, aiming to better engage internet-savvy voters.
  • YouTube: This Google-owned outlet certainly isn’t new — campaign ads appeared on the site during the 2008 campaign, and it partnered with Fox News for a GOP debate back in September. But in this election cycle, it has become an outlet to which campaign videos reach “viral” status, such as Herman Cain’s bizarre “I am America” ad (as well as the hilarious parody by Jon Huntsman’s daughters, complete with fake mustaches and bubbles being blown) or Rick Perry’s “oops” moment from the CNBC debate in November. With nine months left until Election Day, there’s bound to be more “viral” campaign moments — and it’s fairly certain they’ll eventually end up on YouTube.

Maureen Mackie I took a break from being a Broadcasting and Political Science student at Grand Valley State University to get some real-life experience in the city of Chicago. I enjoy politics, good comedy and the New England Patriots. Follow me on Twitter: @maureenmackie

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