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Social Media Decision 2012

President Obama announced his formal re-election bid with a YouTube video distributed through Facebook. Mitt Romney followed suit by announcing his primary intention via Facebook. On April 20, 2011 President Obama will stream a town hall meeting through Facebook and at  President Obama will be at Facebook HQ for the event. Facebook is emerging as the virtual campaign headquarters of the President and several lead challengers. We are about to have the first social media national elections. The symbolism is, of course, important. The arrival of bloggers, Twitter, Facebook and social media can hardly be doubted at this point. Social media will drive attitudes, perceptions, fundraising and votes. More will be spent and raised in this space than any of us could have imagined in 2008. Web 2.0 platforms and applications will be a primary connection between candidates, donors, voters and media. Hundreds of millions of dollars will be raised and spent on-line.
Why? Social media offers real time and intimate access to hundreds of millions. Messages can be fine tuned and precision targeted in this format. Reactions to policies, phrases and images can be collected and used in real time. The crowds in the social web are huge and active. Tens of millions engage the world through social media where they consume and create content. Billions of hours a month are spent on Facebook and YouTube. The always on, connected nature of social platforms/applications is perfect for messaging. Candidates will go where growth, wealth and attention are. They will follow the crowds, use the computing clouds and stay connected.  
Over the past 3 elections cycles we have seen Presidential election spending nearly double every 4 years. In 2000 candidates spent $343million, in 2004 this jumped up to $718million and in 2008 our Presidential candidates spent $1.325billion. Past election spending numbers are from Open Secrets at The Center for Responsive Politics. 2012 will likely see nearly $2billion spent, increased in part by the Citizens United Supreme Court Decision that deregulated political spending. Spending records will be broken next year and feature a vastly expanded role for social media, Web 4C companies. We call the social media space, broadly defined, Web 4C. The four C’s are Crowds, Clouds, Connections and Commerce.
According to The Center for Public Accuracy, 2008 Presidential cycle internet ad spending was $44million. About 10% of media spending was done online in the last Presidential cycle. We expect this to more than double for 2012. In addition, social media will play a vastly expanded role in Campaign 2012. Broadcast media will continue to get the most dollars. Growth will be far more rapid for internet media and will be exponential for social media. Campaign 2012 is already a watershed moment for social media and we expect that this will continue and intensify. The candidates that perform best in the social web will, raise more money, connect more with voters, shape their messages more accurately and likely win. Win or lose, candidates will do more and spend more in Web 4C space.

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.

Additional disclosure: I do paid research on social media including firms mentioned in the post.