Reflecting upon U.S. citizens’ use of social media on Election Day 2012

By Todd Bacile | November 7, 2012

Two of the many uses of social media in the 2012 presidential election are worth mentioning. American citizens took to YouTube and to Twitter yesterday to discuss and bring attention to serious issues at voting precincts. With each type of social media, citizens created content to combat strategic political maneuvering or questionable technology / tactics at precincts. Each points to the amazing use of technology in yet another context: political campaigns.

YouTube

The following video went viral on election day 2012 (click here if the video does not load). A man is trying to vote for one candidate using touch screen software at his voting station. However, upon touching the area of the screen for his selection, the software selected the other candidate! As the video shows, his repeated attempts to de-select the incorrect candidate and re-select his preferred candidate are unsuccessful.

This person deserves a lot of credit for having an alert sense to record a video of the issue. In less than 24 hours the video has received 4.6 million views. This was important due to his voting precinct’s volunteers assuring him everything was fine. In effect, his ability to record, upload, and share the video brought the necessary attention such a malfunction deserves. Like many people online, I shared this video yesterday.  I discussed it during the #AskAngel Tweetchat with @afmarcom (see a snippet of tweets below). Person-to-person or person-to-group discussions such as this enables regular people to bring attention to an important occurrence.

#StayInLine on Twitter

#StayInLine became a trending topic on Twitter late in the afternoon and evening on election day 2012. What was the purpose of this hashtag? Apparently, some voting lines were long. In fact, some precincts were reporting lines exceeding a 4 hour wait time at 7 PM! Yet, election rules state a person will be allowed to vote as long as they are in line by the time polls close. The purpose of the hashtag was to communicate to the masses how important every vote is in the election.

Not only individual citizens, but also the media picked up on the hashtag. In the days preceding election day some in the media accused one party of strategically limiting voter turnout for the other party in early and absentee voting in some states and counties. Supposedly, blocking or limiting these alternative voting methods heavily played into the favor of one party. #StayInLine became a citizen-generated and media-carried darling of Twitter to fight against what some people viewed as voter suppression. Below are a few choice tweets from regular people and those in the media encouraging people to stay in line to vote.

The use of this creative hashtag was one of many ways people were using Twitter. Here is a list of CNN’s “Best Election Night Tweets“.

What are your thoughts on the use of these social tools in these manners? Do you believe this gives regular people the power to combat what some perceive as political maneuvering to favor one candidate over the other?

Todd Bacile is a marketing doctoral candidate and instructor for Electronic Marketing and Services Marketing in the College of Business at Florida State University. Social Media Marketing Magazine recently ranked him as one of the Top 100 Marketing Professors on Twitter. You can contact him on Twitter @toddbacile

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