Barak Obama, newly elected president of the United States of America, used Web 2.0 to his advantage in the 2008 US election race. He has also been called the first president of social media. He blew away a portion of the US voting market that John McCain didn’t make even the slightest impression on. It’s amazing what social media actually did for Obama’s campaigning. The extent to which he gained exposure across numerous popular social networks was, without a doubt, the reason his message was delivered to more US citizens than he could have ever reached through merely touring the country and giving speeches.
Obama not only used social media to spread his message of change, he also used it to induce action among voters to take the future into their own hands and enforce change. He utilised his resources to their full advantage (in most cases) by using the internet’s vast scope to reach citizens country-wide. Besides a dedicated site and blog in his own name, his team also created social media profiles on some of the most popular and useful social networking websites on the net such as Facebook, YouTube, Linked In, Flickr, and Twitter, as well as other networks that reach out to religion, race and age-based online communities.
Even in South Africa some of the more modern politicians have begun using the internet and social media to draw attention to their political messages and strategies. Helen Zille, Mayor of Cape Town and leader of the DA, is using Web 2.0 to create a presence on the net. She has her own site which links to her profile and group pages on social media sites such as Facebook and Zoopy (a local social networking site, where she encourages the public to share their comments and their views on local government service delivery, something that Zille hopes will bring her closer to the people whom her offices serve).
You realise that we are living in a technologically advanced world when politicians are no longer just making public appearances to spread their messages, but are also getting involved in all areas of people’s lives in order to win votes and make a lasting impression. In Obama’s case, he went all out to boost his campaigning via the internet.
Social media proved successful for Obama, will it do the same for Zille? In my opinion, Zille will need to increase her online presence drastically in order to get the same effect, especially because of South Africa’s internet accessibility issues and the fact that SA’s overall web activity is still in its infancy compared to the US.