In 2008, then-candidate Obama no doubt won the battle for social media. It’s hard to believe that a mere 4 years ago, social media was still a fledgling enterprise. However, Facebook was launched in 2004 and Twitter in 2006. Both sites were still gaining traction, but had not blossomed into the powerhouses they are today. People were still using MySpace for crying out loud. I begrudgingly admit that the Obama campaign wisely tapped into this new form of media and were able to grasp swaths of new voters and shift online debate in their favor.

Unsurprisingly, the first segment of Americans to jump on the social media bandwagon were young people. Twenty-somethings, who are often easily enthralled by the next piece of shiny technology, flooded online by the millions. Facebook and Twitter provided a place for young people to inject their opinions, fact-based or not, into the vast area of public debate. Social media also provided a place for people to be way too descriptive about what they ate for breakfast and a place to post pictures of themselves in front of the mirror with fish lips. Nothing is perfect I suppose. However, the Obama campaign launched a social media campaign that was almost perfect and they created a stronghold on the youth vote. It’s no wonder that 66% of people under 30 cast their vote for the little-known senator and community organizer from Illinois.

Flash forward to 2012. While Barack Obama still has a strong presence in twitter feeds and Facebook timelines, but conservatives have also taken the web by storm. Websites like Twitchy and commentators like Dana Loesch, Michelle Malkin, and the late Andrew Breitbart have made a living off of reshaping political discourse through social media. Liberals no longer have social media users wrapped around their proverbial little finger. As a result, conservatives are no longer at odds with both the mainstream media and social media. Furthermore, it’s no surprise that the technology-obsessed youth are straying away from Obama. President Obama has only received 49% of the youth vote in the latest Zogby poll compared to Mitt Romney’s respectable 40%. The disastrous effects of Obama’s policies on youth employment partnered with their dwindling hold on social media have certainly put the youth vote in play this election.

Conservatives may have missed the social media boat in 2008, but we have since wised up and have taken advantage of all the benefits the online community provides. As the mainstream media bows to the Obama administration and injects it’s liberal agenda into our news, social media provides an outlets for conservatives to hold both the media and our politicians accountable. Countless online news sources and blogs such as Breitbart, HotAir, and Red State have used their influence to inject a bit of legitimate reporting into an increasingly biased media. Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter propel these stories into cyberspace where they are juxtaposed with mainstream media reports and web-savy Americans have a chance to see both sides. It also provides transparency that is so lacking in both the media and the Obama administration.

Case in point: Over the last couple days, conservatives have launched several large stories over social media platforms. After the Daily Caller published a video from 2007 in which Barack Obama praised Reverend Wright and implied that the Federal Government did not help out Hurricane Katrina victims because they were predominately black, twitter users dog piled on the story. Soon, #ObamaVideo was trending and liberals were running in circles trying to explain it. In 2008, the media buried this story and conservatives on twitter were not dominant enough on social media to hold them accountable. In 2012 it’s a different story and conservative tweeters and facebookers are holding the media and Barack Obama’s feet to the fire.

This election cycle, social media will play a large role in the narrative. Twitter, Facebook, and other social media sites provide a voice for conservative who are growing ever-voiceless in the mainstream media. Everyone has an opportunity to give their opinion, no matter their political bent. Sure, social media has also greeted the rise of online trolls who spend their time harassing people of opposite political ideologies, but no matter. Conservatives now have a voice in social media, and we’re here to stay.

Amy Lutz | St. Louis University | @AmyLutz4