One day after President Obama announced his reelection campaign, his team also announced that Facebook would be hosting a townhall meeting through Facebook. The meeting will stream live enabling all Facebook users to view and participate. Not only will the meeting take place at Facebook headquarters, but it will also feature the company’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg. Account holders can submit questions on the Facebook page from now up until the meeting is over. Facebook will select which questions President Obama will have to answer. The townhall meeting will focus on the status and direction of the economy, the most pertinent issue for many Americans.
President Obama seems to have developed some sort of partnership with Mark Zuckerberg. If you remember, a few months ago, President Obama dined with several Silicon Valley chief executives including Mr. Zuckerberg who was prominently seated to the right of the President. Steve Jobs, Apple CEO, sat on his left. Since then Facebook has backed the White House in their quest to prevent online bullying and harassment. Now Facebook is hosting a townhall meeting at their headquarters. Regardless of whether Mr. Zuckerburg is registered as a Democrat or not, he sure is starting to look like an Obama supporter.
Reportedly more than 50 percent of Americans have a Facebook account, most of them ranging from age fifteen to forty-five. In the 2008 election, this demographic turned out in record proportions and changed history forever. Using this social media platform as a marketing tool is a no-brainer for the Obama campaign. During the 2008 Presidential election, the Obama campaign relied heavily on email communication with potential voters. This time around, social networks appear to be at the forefront. Using Facebook as a location for the townhall meeting exemplifies that the Obama campaign is serious about connecting with voters using this platform.
I think that Facebook may look at their involvement in the Obama reelection campaign for the 2012 Presidential election as a means to promote their brand. Although Facebook is recognized as a dominant force in social networking, I’m sure they like the substantiation and validation that comes with presidential confidence. You can’t exactly buy that kind of endorsement. Facebook may seem to be recommending the President but in essence, the President appears to back Facebook as well. Facebook became highly successful without the help of President Obama and doesn’t need him to maintain their level of success. But this stamp of approval may engrain Facebook into the political culture of the United States and the rest of the world. If others follow the lead of President Obama, Facebook may be involved in campaigns and elections around the globe. This by far enables Facebook to build on their international presence and reputation.
It will be interesting to see how other candidates will choose to market themselves online. Will Facebook embrace other presidential candidates? Will Facebook host a townhall meeting for the Republican front runner? My guess is no, but only time will tell on this one.