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State of the Union: One Huge Online Branding War

Politicians, marketers wage mini battles to capitalize on exposure

Social media had plenty to say about the water break of Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).

It's become standard practice during widely broadcasted social events (especially political ones) for interested persons and groups to wage a quiet social media war to grab real estate in front of an already captive audience and try to ignite that elusive viral spark. During the 2012 election cycle, the Obama campaign crafted and executed the most advanced and successful of these campaigns, with moments like its Twitter response to Clint Eastwood's empty chair speech at the RNC, which went viral before Eastwood had exited the Tampa Bay Times Forum. 

Flash forward to last night's State of the Union address, and it was clear that the Obama administration's digital team has carried over many of these tactics. Both the @BarackObama account and @whitehouse tweeted Obama's speech nearly verbatim, embedding both powerful and playful photos and infographics in real time at key moments to highlight, add emphasis, and hopefully achieve that viral spark.

Others have clearly caught on and throughout the night, if you were looking for it, both politicians and brands were hard at work, hoping to capitalize on any big moments of the evening. While a series of organizations from Chevron to Bankrupting America tried to leverage the promoted trend on #SOTU throughout the day, companies like search engine Bing pounced on social moments grabbing the promoted tweet for #TheyDeserveAVote, a powerful moment from the guns portion near the end of Obama's speech.

Later in the evening, during the Republican response address, Senator Marco Rubio's speech was nearly drowned out across social media by the legislator's decision to hurriedly grab a sip of water during his address. The political gaffe, a favorite of the social media-obsessed, political-chattering class, was quickly disseminated through animated GIFs and tens of thousands of derisive mentions.

Yet, what could surely have been a damning flub, was quickly saved due to a quick bit of maneuvering from the Senator's social media team, which tweeted a self-deprecating, good-natured acknowledgement of the incident.  

While this type of rapid social response has become the norm—Oreo has been in the spotlight ever since its quick Twitter rebuttal to the Super Bowl blackout—the clever Rubio team response was indicative of the entire night across social media, where behind the scenes of any major event, social media response teams lurk around every corner to capitalize on or staunch the bleeding that occurs on networks like Twitter. And as if to prove the point, one need look no further than Poland Spring, which quite publicly failed to cash in on the Rubio #watergate and a free shot at trending nationally. 

It's a brave new world out there.

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