Barack Obama

How can the incumbent U.S. President mobilize supporters and keep voters informed in real time to win the 2012 election?


Influence the national conversation around the presidential election during critical campaign milestones to shape perception, connect with new audiences and win re-election.


Used Promoted Trends to own the Twitter conversation around key campaign events and Promoted Tweets to inform existing supporters and reach new voters.


  • Most retweeted Tweet in history
  • 252M Promoted Trend impressions
  • 15.78% average Promoted Tweet engagement rate

As a presidential candidate in 2008, Barack Obama (@BarackObama) used the Internet to successfully reach voters and organize supporters in groundbreaking ways. During his first term, the President used digital platforms like Twitter to stay connected with Americans, share personal and policy insights as well as respond to breaking news in real time. Fittingly, in April of 2012, the President announced his re-election campaign in a video titled “It Begins with Us” posted on his website.

Their challenge

Leading up to the 2012 election, @BarackObama wanted to mobilize supporters, engage undecided voters and shape the conversation around his re-election. The @Obama2012 team needed to efficiently reach target audiences where they already spent their time and proactively participate in the national dialogue about the presidential race. The campaign also wanted to create a vehicle for rapid response outreach during critical moments, as well as react in real time to emerging trends and opportunities.

Their solution

@BarackObama turned to Twitter Ads to own the election conversation at every step of his campaign. During high-profile, televised moments including the last day of the Democratic convention (#Forward2012) and the first presidential debate (#ForwardNotBack), the President used Promoted Trends to extend the reach of his messages to millions, actively influence what voters were talking about and gain an edge over Republican candidate Governor Mitt Romney (@MittRomney).

Promoted Tweets in timelines and in search associated with the Promoted Trends helped @BarackObama influence voter attitudes during critical events and encourage people to share timely messages.

The Obama campaign team used @BarackObama to distribute campaign messages in the President’s authentic voice. The campaign also relied on a number of other accounts (@MichelleObama, @JoeBiden, @Obama2012) to ensure that Twitter users heard from a diverse set of credible and engaging messengers. Rapid-response accounts like @TruthTeam2012 were used to quickly adapt to real-time trending topics and respond directly to opponents’ attacks as well as arm avid supporters with the most relevant resources (microsites, links, videos, reports, etc.) to influence others.

During every televised presidential debate, @BarackObama created a two-screen experience using Twitter. In the third debate when the President rebutted @MittRomney with a reference to “horses and bayonets,” the phrase started trending on Twitter. The @Obama2012 team capitalized on the unplanned moment in real time. The campaign targeted Promoted Tweets to the hashtag #horsesandbayonets and highlighted the stark difference in foreign policy between the President and the Governor.

Promoted Tweets also drove critical direct response efforts, such as voter registration, email list building and get-out-the-vote outreach, encouraging supporters to take action offline. In other Promoted Tweets, @BarackObama shared compelling rich media and content, including photos from the campaign trail, videos, infographics and television spots on Twitter as well as reminders to watch live streams of key events.

@BarackObama used Twitter’s targeting capabilities to expand reach to key groups of voters, such as young people, African Americans, Latinos and women. Tweets were targeted to different devices, keywords (economy, energy, #nationalsecurity), handles (@LatinosForObama, @Vets4Obama, @Students4Obama ) and interests (empty nesters, college life, vegetarian, Latino, R&B and Soul).

Geo-targeting allowed the President to segment key audiences, overlaying constituency and interests with location. The campaign initially targeted large metro areas but broadened the target, as the election neared, to key states to reach as many eligible and likely voters as possible.

The day before the election, @BarackObama ran the Promoted Trend #Forward – a related but simplified version of the branding used in the first two trends. Promoted Tweets associated with the trend armed voters with polling location information. Tweets were targeted to mobile devices to connect with Twitter users wherever they might be and encourage them to take action.

To keep the momentum strong and drive votes on Election Day, the President ran one final Promoted Trend: #VoteObama. Promoted Tweets invited Twitter users to show their support for the President and spread the word to friends and family.


The @Obama2012 team also used the hashtag #StayInLine to connect with voters at their polling stations. This strategy was critical for the campaign in reaching voters stuck in long lines at voting locations who were checking Twitter on their mobile devices for information. While using geo-targeted Tweets, the @Obama2012 campaign was sure to call out specific state names to drive relevancy.


Twitter is an excellent tool that is now a necessity for advertisers and marketers who want to be responsive and agile. Twitter Ads helped us take advantage of important moments throughout the race and reach as many potential supporters as possible. We were able to target Twitter Ads to our audience with precision and fluidly integrate social with offline advertising to help us win the election.

Nathaniel LubinDirector of Digital Marketing, Obama for America


Their results

On November 5, @BarackObama won the election and a second term as President. As the TV networks called Ohio for @BarackObama, his team tweeted a celebratory photo of the President and First Lady embracing that perfectly reflected the joy and relief of the moment. The well-timed Tweet shared breaking news of the victory and also emotionally resonated with how @BarackObama supporters were feeling in real time.

The President’s Tweet spread quickly on Twitter and became the most retweeted Tweet in history with more than 800,000 Retweets. It serves as the perfect example of the campaign’s consistent ability to complement their organic social strategy with paid promotion to maximize engagement at key moments.

The President’s four Promoted Trends generated a total of 252 million impressions. The top performing Promoted Trend (#VoteObama) garnered an 18.32% average engagement rate. With Promoted Tweets, @BarackObama drove an average engagement rate of 15.78%. In total, @BarackObama’s Twitter Ads campaigns created a total reach of 364.9 million impressions.

Twitter exceeded all expectations for the campaign. Unlike ad platforms that prioritize off-site clicks, Twitter allowed our audience to help us reach more people and distribute our message for us through Retweets and replies. For critical rapid response moments, which happen daily on a campaign, there was no comparison to this platform because we could engage people in real time and adapt to changes in the landscape within seconds or minutes

Chris ChoiSenior Advertising Strategist, Obama for America 

3 keys to success

  1. Listen and adapt. 
    The @Obama2012 team closely monitored sentiment on Twitter throughout the campaign. They actively listened to followers and refined messages based on what they heard. The team also adapted quickly to the moment by responding to popular topics during live televised events. 
  2. Be authentic.

    Twitter users feel a personal connection to the people they follow. That’s why the @Obama2012 focused on creating an authentic voice for the President on Twitter that never sounded like a paid ad. The content @BarackObama shared on Twitter ranged from serious policy insights to lighthearted glimpses into life on the campaign trail. But no matter the topic, the tone for @BarackObama was always direct and approachable and used the President’s own words wherever possible.
  3. Integrate to activate.

    @BarackObama and his team closely integrated Twitter across platforms like television and paid search. For the Republican and Democratic conventions, as well as the presidential debates, @Obama2012 even developed a large ad unit for the Washington Post homepage that pulled in multiple campaign Twitter feeds. This dynamic, integrated approach to advertising allowed the President to more widely distribute his messages to an engaged audience and surfaced the most relevant content throughout the day’s event, ensuring real-time relevancy.

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