Election 2012: President Obama ‘Cashes in’ on Free (Social Media) Publicity

What money problems?

It's been well-documented that President Obama is being outspent by his Republican opponents by a considerable margin. So to counter that gap, and make a good PR move in the process, the president and his team got creative— without spending a dime.
On Wednesday, August 29, as Republican nominee Mitt Romney and thousands of his supporters were convening in Tampa, President Obama hopped on reddit.com to answer questions from the general public.  For about 30 minutes, the president answered questions about politics, protecting Internet Freedom, funds for the space program and unemployment for recent grads among other topics. The president posted a picture of himself on the computer and posted links for participants to register to vote. Reddit, unlike Twitter, doesn’t have a limit on characters, so responses could be well thought-out and in-depth. Much like his 2008 run, when social media was still in its infancy, Obama continues to find unique social ways to interact with his constituency. 

Did we mention this move didn’t cost a thing?

When you’re behind in budget, social media platforms are inexpensive weapons to add to your PR arsenal. It’s a great way to compete with the big boys, even if you have half of their budgets to work with. In this case, Obama is taking a “fiscal” approach to campaigning. By simply utilizing Reddit's AMA (Ask me anything) feature, Obama showcased himself at a lower price with the hopes it being just as impactful as a high-priced TV ad. 

This move should remind all communicators of the importance of social media. It's cost-efficient, and an easy way to spread information about your brand. When budgeting for promotions, the social media elements should be at or near the top of any business objectives that are written. 

As we’ve documented over the past few weeks, social media has been a huge part of the campaigns for the upcoming presidential election. Both Obama and Romney have made a point to make social networking a high priority as November approaches. Twitter, Facebook and personal Web sites have been an effective, and fast, way for both campaigns to pass their message on to potential voters and have given them opportunities for personal engagement. 

As you may recall, it was Obama's employment of social media in the 2008 campaign that many credit for his win over John McCain. The Republicans learned from that defeat and have become much more involved in social media efforts this time around.

Obama's chat generated enormous buzz on the Internet. And yes, it was actually him chatting. From a PR perspective, not only did the Obama team make news in a positive way by openly answering questions, Reddit, which was founded in 2005,  maximized on its opportunity by having the most recognizable name in the world use its brand. 

A win-win for all involved— at no cost. 

Follow Jamar Hudson: @jamarhudson