Social media plays a vital role in 21st century political campaigns, allowing for direct communication between candidates and voters. By analyzing this election’s presidential social media duel one can gain insight to the image that each campaign is trying to project as well as the way they wish to paint their opponent.
In sheer numbers, President Obama dominates the social media game, with millions more users than Romney on every major social network. This is not surprising to many, considering the President’s past success with young voters. Obama not only has more followers, he also generally reaches out to them more frequently. As measured over a two-week period by Inc.com, Obama led Romney handily in message-output on social networks other than on Facebook, where Romney took a slight lead.
That being said, Romney is not out of the game entirely. On Facebook, each candidate has almost equal numbers “talking about this,” and Romney has been gaining friends and followers faster than the President this month. Moreover, Vice Presidential Candidate Paul Ryan continually trumps Vice President Joe Biden on most networks.
Social media, however, is about more than just quantifying followers; the candidates are also striving to get their supporters to share their message and interact with their campaigns. In this category, President Obama once again trounces the Republican nominee. In the same Inc.com study, Obama nearly doubled Romney in Facebook “Likes,” Twitter “Retweets,” and Youtube “Likes” and comments. This category may be the most important to measure because it reflects the reach the candidates have and implies involved support.
These numbers can be deceiving, however. For example, while the President consistently gains more comments on his Facebook posts, a larger percentage of these comments are criticisms or irrelevant humor than on Mitt Romney’s page (although these types of comments are heavily present for both candidates). Also, social media activity may not reflect likelihood of electoral success since millions of users reside in other countries, especially on Facebook.
The candidates’ social media presence is more than just numbers… insight can also be found in the content of their messages. The Obama campaign tends to divide their posts between one-sentence general summaries of policy ideas, video advertisements/endorsements, and uniquely, visuals that simply project a positive image of the candidate. Negative posts about the opposing ticket are less frequent but are certainly present. All together, the Obama Facebook makes voters feel like they really are “friends” with the President: they post photos of everyday campaigning and cute pictures of the First Couple, simple policy stances in conversational language, and appeals for sharing and interaction.
Mitt Romney’s campaign has taken a slightly different tactic in their social media approach, one in which everything is content-connected. His most standard Facebook post is an image, text overlaid, with a link to another campaign page in the description. To share his policy ideas, the Romney campaign posts “infographics” that are visually appealing and always contain a link as well. Like the Obama campaign, negative posts are present but rare. All in all, the Romney campaign maintains a Facebook page that is entirely interconnected: everything links to a sticker, sign or clothing item to purchase, a petition to sign, or a blog post on the Romney website to read.
Ultimately, the Obama campaign has had more time and a more successful approach to win the social media game, especially in terms of effectively proliferating their message. Both campaigns, however, have a unique style in the management of their networks that reflects the nature of their campaigns. The President focuses on projecting an image: he is cool and collected, in touch with the people’s concerns, and has the most logical policy to move the country forward. Governor Romney takes an information-based approach: go anywhere near his Facebook or Twitter and you will end up buying campaign items, signing a petition to show your support, or reading material on the campaign website. Both approaches have their advantages, and only November will prove which one is most effective.
Join the discussion Please be relevant and respectful.
If Occupy Wall Street and all the Independents could overthrow the media, that would be a huge start in the right direction. Fox and CNN and all the major networks are owned by the elite and cater to the Dems or Repubs. We need to break their stranglehold on the people by breaking up the big media. I see social media doing that a little, but it is a slow process.
This was not a very insightful analysis. Unless, being effective with your social media means nearly the same thing as being beautiful ... In other words if it is superficial and if it is purely a subjective measure. Whether the president has been effective remains to be seen.
And in any case, it totally ignores many factors, the effect of the growing third party trend, the difference in maturity or in general personality of follower, the possibility of paid Internet trolls, the likelihood of showing up to vote. I could go on forever.
Mitt Romney's "information-based approach" doesn't really lend itself well to social media. Personally, I like informative posts but it's hard to attract attention. I get the feeling that Obama's campaign is more in touch with how to gain attention.
really insightful. I wouldn't have noticed the subtle differences between the two campaigns' social media strategies, it sort of just becomes noise after a while.
Interesting note that many Obama social media followers come from overseas compared to Mitt. This could be a part of why they have similar levels of engagement with a bread discrepancy in followers.
A higher number of Obama followers are really active, especially on tweeter. This has been recently illustrated by a number of promoted hashtags paid by the Romney campaign that have been taken over by democrat twitter followers and made fun of .