Obama hugs Michelle, and makes Facebook history

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WASHINGTON 
(AFP) – It was a moving photo like countless others on Facebook, but the
caption “four more years” said it all — US President Barack Obama had won
re-election, and was about to make social media history. After a months-long, gruelling presidential campaign fought both
off- and online, Obama sealed his tech-savvy reputation late Tuesday by
announcing his victory over Republican foe Mitt Romney on Twitter and Facebook
with the photo.

By early Wednesday, the shot of a smiling Obama holding his wife
Michelle in a loving embrace had already broken records on both social networks
— bringing to a climax a hard-fought online campaign for supporters and votes.

“This Barack Obama
photo is the most-liked Facebook photo of all time,” the social network announced
Wednesday, as it clocked up more than 3.5 million “likes”.
The picture was actually taken in August in Iowa, at a time when a
weary president seemed to lack the necessary spark to win re-election.
Wearing a simple red-and-white checked dress with a blue belt, the
First Lady had joined her husband at the end of an exhausting three-day bus
tour of the Midwest, giving his battered political brand a timely jolt of
energy.
Not only had she appeared to reinvigorate the president, but her
dress also drew countless comments, reportedly purchased for just under $90 on
online fashion store ASOS.com.
On Twitter, the photo of the 44th US president hugging his wife
had been retweeted 714,800 times mid-Wednesday, far outpacing singer Justin
Bieber whose tribute to a fan who died of cancer held the previous record in
popularity.
The president’s emotional announcements on Twitter and Facebook
mark the culmination of a sophisticated, months-long social media campaign that
has seen Obama’s team work the popular platforms hard to garner supporters and
votes.
Social networks emerged as key tools in the US presidential
campaign, with both Obama and his Republican foe Mitt Romney staging major
pushes on the platforms.
But while Romney has increased his presence hugely on social media
compared to 2008 Republican presidential candidate John McCain, Obama is seen
as having retained the upper hand from his successful online campaign four
years ago.
Zach Green, head of Twitter political consultants 140Elect, said
the president’s 2012 campaign “broke new ground.”
“The picture said it all — it made everyone feel closer to the
campaign in a way that hasn’t been done before,” he said.
Obama’s team blanketed many platforms, from the better-known
Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, to blogging platform Tumblr and Pinterest — the
latest phenomenon that allows users to post and share photos put together by
theme.
They also carried out innovative initiatives, such as Twitter town
halls with the president or his top advisors that allowed anyone on the social
network to ask them questions.
Obama also checked in on social news site Reddit in August to have
a live chat with the public on issues as varied as hurricane relief efforts,
the space program and Internet freedom.
And just hours before polls began to close in states around the
country Tuesday, he took to Reddit again to appeal for votes, and kept tweeting
through the evening to remind people to cast their ballots.
“It’s really about a connected relationship with him, it doesn’t
feel like he’s just someone out there, there is connectedness,” said Green,
pointing out that the Obama camp tweeted far more often than Romney’s team.
“It shows that the model of very active engagement, having a loud
voice seems to be effective,” he added.
“But it’s hard to prove that he wouldn’t have won without this.”

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