Will tweets make the difference in the 2012 US presidential election? Twitter and other social media are being used by candidates to energise supporters, raise funds and shift the focus of the public debate for what some call the nation's first "social election" in November. Twitter has the potential "to sway the national narrative" said Zach Green, head of the media consultancy 140Elect, which advises candidates on how to use Twitter. Because Twitter democratises the delivery of information, tweets can help a candidate by getting out a message that might not be seen on traditional media such as newspapers and TV. Tony Fratto, a former White House and US Treasury spokesman in the George W. Bush administration who is now a partner in the consulting firm Hamilton Place Strategies, said Twitter can be a game-changer. "It has made it possible for campaigns to immediately communicate with large numbers of potential voters in about the cheapest way you can imagine," Fratto said. "Not only can you impress a message on millions of people, but you can respond to charges quickly. In the old days, you would have someone put a television ad, and it would take time to write a press release or produce an ad [to counter that]." President Barack Obama has a huge head start on Republican rival Mitt Romney on Twitter. The incumbent has some 18.7 million Twitter followers to fewer than 900,000 for Romney. Green says Obama tweets 10 times more often as Romney, and gets additional support on Twitter from his campaign. But Romney's tweets are more often shared and retweeted, suggesting his supporters are more "engaged". Fratto said Obama had a "huge advantage" in the 2008 campaign over Republican John McCain but that in 2012, the Romney campaign has "a very sophisticated digital communication strategy". A study by the Pew Research Centre's Project for Excellence in Journalism said the Obama campaign "holds a distinct advantage" in its use of digital technology to communicate with voters, particularly Twitter. More crucially, the Obama campaign is using digital means to target key groups such as Hispanics and women voters.