"Social-media engagement will decide election 2012."

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Kissing babies is still a valuable trick of the political trade, but it’s not enough for the digital world. The modern politician will capture the baby-kissing on video and quickly post it on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube while making sure constituents “check in” on Foursquare. According to a recent Iowa field study of politically themed advertising conducted by SocialVibe, the digital road to the White House is now dependent on social-media engagement.

“Social-media engagement will decide election 2012,” Jay Samit, CEO of SocialVibe, a digital advertising technology company, said in an email. “Voters are hungry for sharable content that resonates with their values, priorities and interests.”

It’s to be expected that a social agency will sing the praises of social media. And reality dictates that old-fashioned TV advertising is, once again, going to account for the overwhelming bulk of political advertising this election cycle as politicians seek to target undecided and swing voters.

But online and social will be crucial to any successful campaign — especially in terms of fundraising and getting out the base. And experts parsing the results of the study during a conference call today offered up five solid tips for campaigns:

1. Use Facebook and campaign websites to engage supporters. According to Karen Jagoda, executive director of the E-Voter Institute, 81% of those 18 and older expect candidates to have a website. Also, with Facebook user numbers at roughly 150 million in the U.S. alone, many candidates will look to utilize this social media tool.

In the last election Google was the largest player — the Obama campaign directed 45% of its online campaign dollars to the search site. However, in this upcoming election Facebook is being forecasted at being equally important to Google, according to Kate Kaye, author of “Campaign ’08: A Turning Point for Digital Media.”

2. Make your social presence a conversation. Thanks to social networking, it has become easier to target supporters with specificity. This is because, according to SocialVibe, “campaigns can target by political party, a cross-section of information imbedded into a profile (ranging from a user’s ‘likes’ to the topics she discusses on her wall) and by age, gender and location.” Also, with the use of social networking a particular message can be passed along multiple times to reach a wide range of people. According to SocialVibe, “94% of voting-age users engaged by a political message in social media watched the entire message, and nearly 40% went on to share it with their friends.”

3. Go mobile. Jon Gibs, a Nielsen VP, said that there are 230 million cellphone users in the U.S., of which 30 million watch video on their mobile phones. Further, political campaigns are turning to quick-response codes that allow users to check in to a particular event using Facebook or Foursquare. According to SocialVibe, “The Mitt Romney campaign recently took advantage of this feature by creating a Foursquare badge for participating in a one-day fundraiser in Las Vegas.”

4. Make emails social. Although email is no longer the principle way to get a message out to the public, it is a still an important tool. “While younger voters may be disinclined to even open emails, their parents and grandparents still rely on email for information and connection,” according to SocialVibe.

5. Build allegiance through engagement advertising. This form of advertisement relies on the people themselves to maintain and further the success of the advertising. People choose to engage a particular advertisement, receive information about the subject and gain credit by playing a social online game, premium content or other goods they find value in.

“Campaigns that embrace the latest trends in commercial brand advertising will see the same kind of results that are driving more and more advertising dollars both online and to mobile devices,” said Mr. Samit.