The 2008 United States presidential election, the 56th in the nation's history, started surprisingly early. The first candidate to declare for the office, the since-disgraced Democratic senator John Edwards, did so two years prior to the election. 2012's candidates have not been quite so quick off the blocks. But they are slowly assembling and social media is now firmly part of the campaigning package.
Experian Hitwise has released some numbers regarding how the candidates (and now former candidates) have used social media already in the campaign.
In one day, Ron Paul raised one million dollars, in part through his website.
President Obama, meanwhile, hosted an online "town hall" meeting via Facebook. It may not have been an official campaign stop, but it was definitely a de facto one.
Last week former governor and current Fox talking head Mike Huckabee pulled out, as did real estate developer and TV star Donald Trump. The latter may have been motivated in part by the vicious beating he was given at the White House Correspondents Dinner by comedy writer Seth Myers, a beating which was widely circulated on YouTube.
According to Heather Doughterty, head of research for Hitwise:
"Trump launched an aggressive campaign for The Apprentice season 11 which coincided with his media blitz of political pronouncements, including requests for President Obama's birth certificate. This approach had a positive impact on online interest; searches for variations of 'Trump' peaked during the week ending May 7th, at which point there were sixty-five times more searches for 'Trump' than during the peak in season ten of The Apprentice (10/9/10). But web-users are fickle and last week (5/14/11) searches for all variations of "Trump" had dropped 68% over the week prior (5/7/11)."
When it comes to Facebook, an increasingly-important tool for candidates, President Obama's and Sarah Palin's are in the lead for number of visitors.