With the US Presidential election happening on Tuesday 6th November and the last of the televised presidential debates over, the Obama vs. Romney tension is higher than ever before. The buzz around the candidates has been huge, leading Jordan Bitterman of Digitas to suggest that “[This] year’s victor may well be determined by the impact of Facebook and Twitter.” And where there are great social stats, there’s a great story.
This is at least partly down to both candidates upping their social game in the run up to this election. Both posted more content via a wider variety of channels than before. And of the estimated $1bn spent this election by both Republicans and Democrats, an estimated $54 million has been spent on various forms of digital advertising. This isn’t so surprising when you consider that 88% of adult social media users are registered voters and that 94% of voting-age users who see a political ad online watch the full thing. In fact political messages online are now more likely to reach voters online than through TV.
President Barack Obama and Alyssa Mastromonaco, Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, listen during a conversation
with other members of the staff aboard Air Force One en route to Joint Base Andrews, Md., Sept. 9, 2012.
(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza). Image taken from The White House's Flickr Stream, some rights reserved.
(We wanted one of Mitt too, but all his Flickr photos are off-limits...)
While both Obama and Romney have clocked the difference that social could make to the election, their strategies have been quite different, as shown by an infographic on Inc.com. Obama has put out the majority of messages (for example 404 Twitter messages as opposed to Romney’s feeble 16 at the time this graphic was produced), and has gained more of a response from the public as a result, with his content getting around 1.12 million Facebook likes and 150k retweets. Romney meanwhile gained 633k Facebook likes and 8k retweets. But a large part of this is down to the fact that Obama has been active online for a lot longer than Romney, having used social well since the last election in 2008.
However, the strategy used by Romney to catch up has been well thought-out. The Romney campaign posted content mostly in the form of images (43% of overall content) and video (24%) extending his reach through catching the visual attention of users who may not be interested by posts in plain text form. By contrast, Obama’s content was mostly made up of text with links (34%) or even just plain text (29%) with a much lower proportion of pictures/videos.
However, those who did engage with Obama’s content reacted positively. Many said that they felt like Obama’s online efforts were more “personal,” with the text-heavy posts making users feel more like the president was addressing them directly. In line with the trash-talk style of US politics, 34% of Romney’s posts were about Obama, including links to statistics about Obama’s administration which were shared heavily by Romney supporters.
The three presidential debates were also revolutionary in terms of social, with the Denver, Colorado debate breaking records at 10.3 million tweets, making it the most tweeted event in political history.
We undertook some research last week, which appears in this week’s issue of Marketing magazine. Tracking the sentiment around the debates was particularly interesting, as it shows social media very closely tracking the ‘official’ verdicts that Romney won the first debate, Obama the second, and that the third was a tie.
Gone are the days when the public had to write letters to their local representatives to make their political views heard. November’s election shows a huge development in the use of social media in politics and paves the way for new levels of political engagement between the public and their politicians.
By Tala Byrne, intern at Yomego, with additional research and graph production by senior designer Chris Casey and insight exec Mark Stuart @mistermumble @yomegosocial