Social Media and the Election

This post is part of a series written by zcomm interns. Be sure to check back each week for their take on the latest in the public relations industry. This week, Hailey discusses the upcoming election and the role social media plays.

For months now, the internet has been flooded with political news and opinions. I’ve seen countless Facebook posts and tweets about the upcoming election and its candidates, but are all of these social media users actually planning to vote? Anyone can sit on the internet and rant and rave about candidates, but I hope that those who truly care will take their opinions to the polls.

During the third presidential debate, my roommate and I noticed that if we were to base the election results on candidate popularity, Barack Obama would win by a landslide. However, I saw someone post about the same concept, except that Mitt Romney would be the victor. Initially I thought my Facebook friend must be blind, but it makes sense. The majority of my Facebook friends and Twitter followers grew up near me, went to college with me, or were in my sorority, so it’s likely that we share similar views. You can’t really get a glimpse of the majority when you’re surrounded by others much like yourself.

To get a better idea of candidate popularity on social media, I was going to compare the exact amount of Facebook “likes” both Obama and Romney have, but in the past five minutes alone Obama has gained more than 2,000 likes. Each time I refresh the page, the number continues to grow. The same goes for Romney. Although both are seeing increasing numbers, Obama has nearly 32 million “likes,” while Romney has just over 12 million (as of 11:10 a.m. EST).

There’s a huge gap here, but is social media support in any way indicative of election results? I guess only time will tell.

Ruffled Feathers

Who wudda thunk it?  That Big Bird would become a political hot potato in the home stretch of presidential election season?  Only in America could that big, feathery, loveable symbol of childhood get caught in the crossfire.

There’s no debating it, ever since Big Bird was named as a target for cost-cutting by Romney last week, the yellow guy has never seen this much ink.

It all started when Mitt took the mitts off and ran over poor Jim Lehrer while he was asleep at the moderator chair.  Hard-hearted Mitt told the global audience that he would actually cut PBS, Big Bird and poor Jim if he’s elected the next prez.  (I got very nervous about my Masterpiece Mystery! addiction).  But, hey, folks, that’s at least one cut he’s telling us he’ll make.  When it comes right down to it, Mitt is showing us he can make the tough choices.

So, what did Big Bird do?  He goes on a media tour and appears on SNL with Seth Meyers.  Quite a coup for the bird on the street.

But, now the candidates are flippin’ the bird all over the place.  Obama is now using Big Bird in an Anti-Romney ad and in stump speeches, and Romney countered with none other than the Count to show that 2 can play the same game!!  It’s obvious these guys are playing hardball.

This might sound funny, but Sesame Street is NOT laughing.  They do not want to be seen as endorsing either party and want all Sesame-Street-related ads pulled. The Obama Campaign is thinkin’ about it.

Guess that means Big Bird is down for the Count.

Candid Camera

I could spend my whole blog talking about all the dumb comments Mitt Romney made at that fundraiser, but I’d rather talk about the fact that anyone in the public eye better get used to the possibility of “personal stuff” going viral at any time.

The ability to take a quick pic and send it out to the world is literally a click or two away.  Just ask topless Kate, strip-poker super stud Harry or bong-sucking Michael Phelps.  Anyone who’s a brand (even for 15 minutes) is fair game for the paparazzi or just about any random dude with a smart phone.

Think about it.  It could be a cell phone, a camera with a telephoto lens or the world’s smallest tape recorder.  You don’t have to be James Bond to have the latest gadgets on hand.

So what does this mean for the Royal and not so royal?  It means you shouldn’t be naked unless you’re in a locked bathroom, you shouldn’t be smoking dope unless you’re in a locked bathroom and, if you’re Mitt Romney, you should basically stay in a locked bathroom.

It also means that even if you’re John Doe in a crowd you better figure on hundreds of cell phones or cameras that could catch you doing something naughty and share the pic on Facebook or Twitter in a nanosecond.  So you should think twice about having that drink with your flirty client, or mooning the world from the top of a tourist bus.  Because it just might be the world that gets to see you in all your glory.

There was a guy the Today Show flew in from London who sent a rambling love letter to a woman he knew.  She sent it to all her friends who, in turn, sent it to all their friends.  Bottom line is that it became the love letter that went global and the guy made headlines.

Yes, there are some folks who love the presence of the camera and you can find most of them on Bravo!  But, the rest of us?  Yup, behind a locked door!

Big Love

So, Ann Romney set out to make us comfy with hubby, Mitt. Her speech was about love, and the love that started when she met the tall, funny guy at a high school dance a long time ago. And it was about the love and bond that women have for women and the strength we all share.

Ann is a good presenter who sure knows her way around a teleprompter. She’s slim, attractive and a natural. That said, I’m not sure she was able to convince undecided voters that Mitt is just a “regular guy.” And ya gotta remember that Ann is not a “regular gal,” either. Sure she’s had medical issues and five kids, but she’s also been pampered since she was a kid, had lots of help throughout the years, horses, (two) Cadillacs and the best docs money can buy. She is not the single mom working two jobs to make ends meet and has zero idea what that’s like.

But, she did an admirable job on a stage that was beamed to millions of watchers.

Then Chris Christie took the spotlight. At first I thought I accidentally sat on my remote and was watching an episode of “The Biggest Loser.” Boy is that guy big. I recently saw him on TV on a NJ boardwalk eating an ice cream cone. Good one, Chris.

But, he’s a good speaker, too. Though, Chris talked about choosing between “love” and “respect” and he chose “respect.” Wonder how Ann felt at that moment? After all, her speech was all about love. Doesn’t anyone go through these speeches to check ‘em out before hand?

And for the first 20 minutes of Christie’s speech, I thought HE was running for President. Not one mention of Mitt Romney. What’s up with that?

I get that Christie is a regular guy who talks like a regular guy whose job it was to introduce Mitt Romney as a regular guy, but when he finally got to the Mitt Romney part of the speech, Mitt was squirming in his seat and Christie was snarling. I thought the guy was going to have a heart attack and hoped there was a doc nearby with a portable defibrillator. CLEAR!!

So, it’s up to Mitt to show the country that he’s a regular guy who can fix all our problems like a plumber and show up on time.

Can an uber-privileged guy who panders to the far right, doesn’t spill his taxes, and refuses to talk specifics fix all that needs fixin’? I don’t see it. But, maybe his magic underwear will help.

Is Campaign Advertising Going Negative?

It just might be a closer race for President Obama than anyone imagined, even after the fractured roller coaster ride of a Republican nomination process.  I mean, with all the Republican presidential candidates lacing into each other for so long, you would think that this would be more of a cake walk for Obama. Think again.

Communications and PR pros behind the scenes eagerly wait to pounce on anything that either candidate says that might seem “off” and blow it up into a mini firestorm that goes from press conference to TV stations, print media and social media both nationally and internationally. Clearly, both Mitt Romney and Obama have to think twice before saying a word.

Did Obama really mean the private sector is healthy and doing just fine? No. In my opinion, he said it to make a point about the dire needs of the public sector. Of course, the Romney camp jumped all over Obama’s remarks and turned the story into front page headlines. At least the birther debate seems to have died down a little. It should have, given the fact that Hawaiian state records prove that the Prez was born in America.

Should Romney give up his latest tax returns so we all can see donors and other information that might show that he has used tax loopholes? In my opinion yes, but he’s not forced to by law. So, the media has now pounced on Romney to disclose all of his taxes. The Obama campaign is also zooming in on Romney’s work at Bain Capital, saying that just because Romney is succeeded at getting investors money, doesn’t mean he would be good at running the country.

Do negative campaign ads work? I think to a point, but then voters get tired of the same ol’ negative rhetoric and start tuning the spots out. Now, with ads on radio, TV, online news sites, social media, blog sites, and more, these negative ads are everywhere, every minute, anywhere we turn.

This is definitely the busy season for media pundits of all stripes. The facts tend to get clouded, or sometimes we get partial truths with a very relevant point purposely omitted.  It’s like when I try to look at a menu without my reading glasses – very blurry.

To help get the facts straight and see the whole story, check out Fact Check is put out by the Annenberg Public Policy Center. It tries to clear the air on the right and on the left. For me, that’s a really positive start.