Election 2012: Is Obama Maximizing His Twitter Presence?

As we examined in a July 18 article, social media is an important part of the campaign strategies in the upcoming presidential election.

And while both candidates are making it a priority to send—if not respond to—messages to potential voters in the Internet space, in sheer numbers, President Obama has the clear advantage over Mitt Romney in the Twitter and Facebook race.

The specific online battle with his Republican opponent aside, Reuters and other outlets have reported that @BarackObama is the most-watched of 264 Twitter accounts of government heads around the world, according to a study by Burson-Marsteller.

Obama was the first head of state to join Twitter, and according to the Burson-Marsteller “Twiplomacy” study, his "Same-sex couples should be able to get married" tweet was the most popular post of any world leader.

Obama’s online following and popularity is well-documented. His Web team long ago learned how to use it to their advantage, as shown in the 2008 election and in their consistent growing presence as November approaches. Obama and his social media team are neglecting the flip side of social media activity—responding to tweets from his 17-plus million followers. According to the Burson-Marsteller study, only 1% of the tweets from Obama's account are replies, putting him way down the world leader rankings in engaging with his army of followers.

We know that Obama isn’t doing the day-to-day tweeting—only eight of his posts are tagged “BO,” which means they came directly from him.

So where’s the interaction? In an era where social media engagement increases an organization’s visibility with consumers, you would think that the Obama campaign would want to engage as much as possible. But that just might not be feasible.  

“I am sure the Obama campaign is seeing value in @replies and engaging with their followers, but I think the biggest problem of the Obama campaign account is that it simply has too many followers to answer @replies or acknowledge @mentions,” says Matthias Lüfkens, chair, EMEA Digital Practice for Burson-Marsteller.

The challenge the Obama communications team faces is coming up with a plan to manage the thousands of mentions the account gets daily, while still engaging.

“They might want to engage with other U.S. political leaders to create some sort of public Twitter debate,” Lüfkens says. “Or they could organize regular bimonthly Obama chats where the users vote on the questions to be submitted to the candidate.”

Not replying to tweets may be a campaign strategy—a way of playing it safe. If the 2012 election goes to Romney, the question will have to be asked whether Obama did all he could do, with this 17-plus million followers, to spread his message. Over the next couple of months we'll keep an eye on whether the president's communications team increases the engagement.  

Follow Jamar Hudson: @jamarhudson