The United States presidential election of 2008 was the first major election anywhere in the world where social media played a significant role. Half of the candidates in the primaries including Barack Obama had blogs.
The number American citizens who regularly went on line for news about the presidential campaign more than doubled from the previous presidential election. As well as news sites like MSNBC, CNN and Yahoo News voters used social networks like Youtube and MySpace for updates as well as blogs like the Drudge Report.
Interaction with social networks became very much a two way process in the run up to the election. On the day that Barack Obama announced he was forming a presidential exploratory committee in January 2007, a student leader created a group on Facebook called “One Million Strong for Barack”. Opponents created a group on Facebook called Stop Barack Obama (One Million Strong and Growing). This reached the one million total in Summer 08 whilst the original and older pro-Obama group still had only 600,000 members.
Involvement in social networks was significant from the earliest days of the primaries. Republican Mitt Romney was the first prospective candidate to launch a Facebook profile, Democrat John Edwards set up a campaign headquarters in the cyber world of Second Life which resulted in one of the more unusual web 2.0 occurrences when it was vandalised by the avatars of his political opponents.
Barack Obama was a prime mover from the outset. He actively engaged with most of the high profile social networking sites including MySpace, Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, LinkedIn, Eventful, Twitter as well as Blackplanet.com, a community with over 20 million members.