The aim of the present research is to analyse the influence of social media on US Presidential campaigns. Subsequently, it intends to answer the following questions: ‘had the online public sphere and social media facilitated Obama’s 2008 win?’, ‘what was the impact of utilising social media as a campaigning tool on the processes of campaign organising and storytelling?’, and ‘has engaging with social media become a campaigning prerequisite since the 2008 campaign?’. A comparative method of the 2008 and 2012 US Presidential campaigns is employed. The research is Obama-centered as he advanced social media as a valuable campaigning tool, yet the candidates Clinton, McCain, and Romney are also considered. Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter are utilized as representative social media platforms. It is argued that the high utilization of social media expanded the public sphere to the online terrain, where social media as a preferred means of communication altered electoral storytelling and organizing, as well as became an integral part of campaigning kits.
The research is organised in five parts with relevant subsections: introduction, context analysis, the 2008 campaign, the 2012 campaign and conclusion. It is concluded that Obama’s win can be partly attributed to the interplay of three factors: the extended online public sphere, the usage of social media as a campaigning tool, and a distinctive candidate in need of a campaigning tool on which to express himself as well as the audience for it. Whilst social media defined the 2008 campaign and ensured its integral role in future campaigns, it will not define them in the future. The 2012 campaign was in turn defined by the usage of big data as a campaigning tool. Each electoral cycle will have a distinct design generated by the advancements in technology. This work represents the outset of the 2016th US Presidential Campaign, being considered a significant and noteworthy indicator of the importance of social media and big data in the US elections.