While Romney's Twitter following is smaller than Obama's, it appears to "retweet" (pass along) tweets from the campaign at a much higher rate than Obama followers do. Retweeting a message "expands its social reach and is in itself a personalized endorsement," says Todd Bailey, vice president of marketing and digital strategy at WebiMax in Mount Laurel. Each retweet creates a network, and it's one measure of zeal and commitment.
A Twitter star is born. Ann Romney has a page on Pinterest, the booming social site that's a virtual pinup board of family snaps and personal interests. Marketers estimate 90 percent of Pinterest users are women, and Ann Romney is already using her site to display a kind, gentle husband, the Mitt who reads to his grandkids -- useful for a candidate whose poll numbers have lagged among women. (The Obama campaign scurried to Pinterest only two weeks ago.)
Twitter, and its power to set instant global wildfires, is front and center. Maria Cardona, principal at Dewey Square Group, says: "What's different about 2012 is the absolute instantaneous nature in which information travels, and in which a story can become a story for either side. Thank Twitter."
Again, this show's newest star is Ann Romney.
Last Wednesday she joined Twitter to object to liberal consultant Hilary Rosen's remark, on CNN, that Ann Romney had "never worked a day in her life." Twitter exploded. Ann Romney shot near the top of national "trending topics."
"Twitter's a double-edged sword," says Cardona. "This has worked well for Romney, and the White House felt it had to respond, and that hasn't worked as well."
Cardona remembers working at the Immigration and Naturalization Service during the 2000 Elian Gonzalez affair. "I used to tell the press guys there'd be no more news until morning!" she says, laughing. "That's gone. Now there's no letup whatever at any time."
It's all about you. "As the campaign progresses," Bailey says, "both candidates will do the same three things: Share their ideas and accomplishments; engage followers and get their ideas and questions; and then, the real end-goal, turn them into volunteers and advocates."
That brings us to the deep, purple heart of this fight. Voters in Pennsylvania and other swing states will be especially courted via today's digital: a gigantic mashup of info, a data-mining frenzy that can profile each person, door to door, neighborhood to neighborhood, day to day.
"The big story of 2012 is going to be Big Data," says Rasiej. Data, for example, on what party you've registered with, worked for, or donated to. Your tweets and Facebook posts (and those of millions of others) are combed for key words to signal your interest and concerns, which in turn get used in political pitches. (Don't get upset. It's done.)
"That gets mashed with other publicly available databases about where you live, your income, your job, other changes in your life," says Rasiej. And then it's mashed again -- "just like any Fortune 500 company does" -- with your Web behavior, every click of which is for sale.
(Nor is this "government surveillance." These are techniques pioneered in the private sector, being used by the rich, powerful private clubs known as political parties.)
The result: an incredibly sophisticated way to customize, personalize, and target the pitch to you. They'll know you, quite well, even before they ring the bell. Call it micro-targeting.
"I know we were micro-targeted in 2008," says Balchunis. "And it's already started: You can hardly get near either campaign's website without registering."
The campaigns will tailor their pitches by state, of course. But the aim will get astonishingly precise: messages tailored by neighborhood, then by address; spoken in one way to the union teacher at 6 Elm St., in another to the small-business owner next door at 8 Elm.
Crucially, the script can adapt each week, each day. "You'll have a different message in early October than in late October, and it could change day to day, as the debate and the news and the flow change," Rasiej says.
"It's all instantaneous," says Bailey. "Campaigns can turn on a dime, change directions, like that."
Massive movements, faster than thoughts, intimately informed about you. Welcome to the future that is the present.
Like many, many political junkies, Cardona ruefully admits it: "The first thing I do when I get up in the morning is check my Twitter feed. It's like a Cliff Notes to what's inside people's brains."
In other words, pure political gold.
Most Popular Stories
- The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, Tenn., John Beifuss column
- Cabot Street Cinema in Beverly for sale
- Entrepreneurs Chase Social Media
- Will Yahoo Splurge on $1-Billion acquisition of Tumblr?
- Financial Times Twitter, Email Hacked
- European Car Sales up First Time in 20 Months
- Travel Startup Localeur Expands to Houston
- Google Fiber Making an Impact
- Jolie Mastectomy Raises Legal Questions
- 'Star Trek Into Darkness': The Return of Khan?