Defining Moment: Obama And The Internet
Leading up to Election Day, democratic campaign strategists were able to successfully leverage the relative youth of Obama and his constituents by using the Internet as an integral tool for both advertising and communication like no other candidate before.
Obama strategists had the foresight to understand the fundamental shift of the media landscape to the digital platform. On Nov. 4, the Internet experienced one of the most significant days in its existence. The following is a snapshot of Web activity throughout that day, captured from both a traditional and social media perspective.
The Internet on Election Day
Election Day was a good day to be a news Web site, as many shattered all kinds of traffic records. It brought to light people's convergent media consumption habits--not only were people glued TV, as in years past; they were also attached to their computer screens. Several online news sites broke records with MSNBC, CNN and ABC News, all recording it as the most visited day ever. These news sites were able to provide instant news updates, satisfying new techno-savvy constituents' insatiable hunger for instant information.
News sites weren't the only ones garnering heavy spikes in traffic with this new "re-distribution" of content. Social networking, online video and other content sites exploded as people aggressively searched for the opinions and thoughts of their peers. Social media sites took advantage of the fever pitch by creating custom executions dedicated to Election Day.
The youth movement obviously played a crucial role in the election/ This group of voters experienced a massive turnout, which likely impacted Obama's victory. These young people have been aptly coined the "YouTube Generation" for their propensity for watching and creating videos online. The YouTube Generation was out in full force on Election Day uploading, viewing, comment in, and sharing political videos throughout the day. Earlier in the day, people flocked to a 19-second video clip of Obama allegedly giving John McCain the middle finger, making it the No. 1 video that day with 1.1 million views.
However, later in the night after Obama was victorious, millions went to YouTube and other video sites to view his historic acceptance speech, which received the No. 1 video ranking on YouTube by day's end. According to Web analytics firm Visible Measures, Obama's speech was uploaded more than 500 times and viewed more than 7 million times on the Web just two days after the election. McCain's concession speech, on the other hand, was uploaded 180 times and collected about 1 million views as YouTube spoils clearly went to the victor.
Facebook encouraged its users to vote by including their own "I Voted" counter on their homepage. Passionate members also discussed and debated their own thoughts on the campaign littering wall feeds with partisan rants that unabashedly flaunted their political leanings.
In addition, Twitter traffic rose 43%, while traffic to their dedicated election page featuring a steady stream of election related Tweets rose an astonishing 1,100%. A custom Twitter site also allowed users to vote in a mock presidential election. It's safe to say Twitter users tend to lean a little left.
Flickr was the Election Day victor for photo-sharing sites, as the Obama campaign gave the American public a candid look behind the scenes by uploading an 82-picture album of what they were doing on Nov. 4. As millions of people anxiously sat on their couches or in front of their computers waiting for the historic election results, Obama and his family were apparently doing the same.
Blogging and Digging All The Way to the White House
Bloggers and their respective readers were also busy writing posts and having them Digged. Unfortunately, the most popular blogged topic on the morning of Election Day was the passing of Obama's grandmother. However, other rising stories were scattered with topics including SpotRunner layoffs and a new Sprint phone. As the day wore on, bloggers went back to Obama. Obama's blog mentions peaked on the day after the election, most likely due to blog stories regarding his epic victory. Conversely, McCain's blog mentions peaked on Election Day, however interest fell dramatically during subsequent days.
What did People Google on Election Day?
One hundred years from now when historians look back at this momentous election, they will undoubtedly turn to Google Hot Trends to know exactly what was on people's minds Nov.4, 2008. People used to say that you could tell a lot about an era by its advertising. While this adage may still hold true, I think you can tell a lot more by looking at what people Google. A quick look at the top 100 search terms on Google at the end of Election Day provided some of the following interesting insight:
* 1 - "McCain concession speech" - searches for McCain's speech peaked at 11EST/8PST as West Coasters flocked to the Internet * 2 - "David Plouffe" - Obama's campaign manager * 3 - "uncle tom" - people actively learning about America's history * 4 - "did Prop 8 pass" - a very important issue, prop 8 was related to 11 different searches in the top 100. It is also interesting to note that people are resorting to asking Google questions * 7 - "David Pluff" - Obama's campaign manager's name misspelled. Two of the top seven search terms were for the same person but spelled differently. People were determined to know about David Plouffe * 14 -"historicity" - I didn't know that was a word and apparently a lot of other people did not either * 22 - "CNN hologram" - CNN's new Star Wars technology piqued people's interest as its number of searches peaked and valleyed based on when it was shown on TV * 43 -"black panthers" - at one point it was the No. 1 searched term, but slowly became irrelevant as the day moved along * 51 - "Al Franken" - former SNL writer running for Senate in Minnesota * 65 - "my president is black lyrics" - a song by rapper Young Jeezy most likely became an instant hit after Nov. 4. 2008.
People also like free stuff. Some other top search terms throughout the day involved Election Day giveaways (search rankings fluctuate throughout the day. These rankings were taken at noon) and include the following:
* "Starbucks free coffee" was the 23rd fastest-rising search term of the day; "Starbucks election" was 79. * "Chick-fil-A" was No. 6 and "chickfila" was No. 58. (free chicken sandwiches.) * "Ben & Jerrys" was No. 16. (free ice cream.) * "Krispy Kreme locations" was No. 25. free donuts) * "Shanes Rib Shack" was No. 29. (free meals, but only to first 300 customers at "participating stores") * "free stuff for voting" was No. 17, "free stuff on election day" was No. 51, and "freebies for voting" was No. 66.
The Internet has clearly revolutionized how the electorate, media and candidates gather and disseminate information. Communication has been fundamentally altered. People are able to be more informed than ever with the breadth of news coverage available. Grassroots movements are more powerful than ever with the ability to create large databases of people and their contact information. Further, our elected officials are held more accountable (in theory) as 24/7 media attention and the threat of an unsavory YouTube video scrutinizes their every move.
The Internet is here to stay, and the presidential election of 2008 confirms it. The people have spoken, and they've elected the Internet. Americans woke up on Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2008, knowing that history would be made that day -- one way or another. With each passing minute, we yearned for a perpetual stream of news, gossip, and analysis to help us understand, appreciate and capture the moment.