Is it a coincidence that Facebook and the Democratic party share a color? Understanding the pervasiveness of the social media giant, Obama's campaign utilized the power of the "Like" in the 2008 election, translating this cyber-support into votes at the booth for an edge over his competitors. Since then, Obama has solidified his alliance with the social media giant, holding a town-hall meeting at Facebook's headquarters and of course, maintaining his Internet presence. With 22 million fans, he has 10 times more Facebook support than the 10 declared GOP presidential candidates combined, who come in at 2.1 million, RealClearPolitics reports.
But Facebook does not want to be thought of as a wing of the Democratic party. "The color of the site is blue, but the color of the company is purple," Joel Kaplan, former deputy chief of staff in the George W. Bush White House and Facebook's current vice president of U.S. public policy, told RCP's Erin McPike.
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In an effort to move away from their partisanship, the company has recruited a strong Republican presence, "Five high-profile GOP strategists have joined Facebook's outreach team in recent months; they say one of their motivating factors is simply learning how it works so they can deliver that knowledge to their party's politicians." Obama already gets the game: "It turns out that incumbents tend to not want to mess around as much, because that means added risk,” Clay Johnson, the co-founder of Blue State Digital, a consulting firm that played a major role in developing and implementing Obama’s new-media strategy in 2008, told The Daily.
Underdogs -- in this case the Republicans -- on the other hand, see social media as an opportunity to play up their outsider status, creating a real grass roots movement: "Whenever you’re in opposition, there are more people who are trying different things,” said Zac Moffat, the digital director for Mitt Romney’s Republican presidential campaign. "The Obama campaign will have trouble replicating that kind of outsider status they had when they were trying to break through," reports The Daily.
Not only do Republicans understand the power of social media, Facebook sees an untapped Republican audience, whereas they've already exhausted the pool of Obama supporters. Facebook specifically created these new positions to reach out to Republicans, according to McPike. "In fact, the Facebook job description for Harbath, who also clocked time at Rudy Giuliani's 2008 presidential campaign as deputy e-campaign director, is to reach out to 2012 Republican candidates and help them better understand and utilize the site."
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However, even if Republicans begin using these tools seriously, they won't necessarily see the same success as Obama--he had the right "synergy," "using social media effectively requires a two-tiered success: a technologically sophisticated operation and the ability to excite party activists. This synergy is what led Obama to victory," explains McPike.
Right now, Republicans aren't hitting that stride. Some have the enthusiasm, but lack the organization, while others get the technical aspects, but don't have much fire, according to The Daily*. "The problem he sees in the current Republican field is that candidates like Rep. Michele Bachman of Minnesota are getting the base fired up but are not that sophisticated in terms of social media. And the better-organized campaigns such as Romney’s and Pawlenty’s have the tech skills, but haven’t caught fire with the party’s base."
Of course, there is one Republican who plays the social media game as well as Barack Obama: Sarah Palin.
*This post originally attributed the source to RealClearPolitics.