“Convention Without Walls” banks on “cord cutters”

This election season social media is driving much of the conversation – whether real-time online fact checking during the GOP convention speeches or fast and furious responses to statements made on a candidate’s website: the online community crowd-sources responses and the candidates have trouble controlling the message.

This should not come as a surprise to either campaign camp: Engagement on social media channels has soared since Obama’s successful 2008 online strategy helped him encourage more young voters to turn up on election day. Especially the use of Twitter has doubled within one year from 2011 to 2012.

A recent Nielsen study showed that in parallel to the rising numbers of social media users, TV cable subscription numbers are stable. So-called “cord cutters” are moving toward broadband and TV bundles and are watching TV content mostly online on Hulu, Netflix or directly on a network’s homepage. They are DVR-ing their favorite shows and no longer watch them at primetime where a strategically well-placed campaign ad would reach them live. Instead, they are fast forwarding through ad blocks or even deleting them out of their online copies and a 30 minute show is now only 23 minutes, deleting all ads.

The campaigns are therefore focusing their strategy on online engagement – instead of spending their budget on TV ads to reach a live audience. Here is where the Super PAC spending comes in – swing states will still see a lot of TV ads, paid for by Super PACs instead of solely the candidates themselves.

The GOP convention was labelled the “Convention Without Walls“, highlighting new campaign channels, such as YouTube’s Politics channel, Twitter’s Election Index, or Facebook. TV budgets were moved into online engagement and both campaigns are focusing on channels where they can actually reach live audiences who are engaging online during live events, commenting, tweeting, discussing, sharing sentiments and watching the live coverage on their own (second) screen – not the TV screen.

The Romney campaign was also the first political campaign to buy the trending topic #RomneyRyan2012 and sponsored tweets on Twitter (via Mashable):

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About Ines Mergel

I am Full Professor of Public Administration at the Department of Politics and Public Administration at University of Konstanz, Germany. Previously, I served as Assistant and then Associate Professor (with tenure) at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University, NY. In my research, I focus on informal social networks in the public sector and the adoption and diffusion of digital service innovations in government organizations. I teach classes on social media management, digital government, public management, and social network analysis.

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