There is no arguing that we live in a time where the Internet and Social Sharing are taking over how we communicate and how we advertise. With a rather large election date looming and two very outspoken candidates battling for votes, President Obama and Mitt Romney have both taken to Twitter and to Facebook in order to increase their reach. But are they effective?
It’s nearly impossible to log onto any popular Social Media venue today, and not see a friend sharing something about the upcoming election. The majority of Internet users are of Generations X and Y, ranging from age 18 to 42, with an even split between Male and Female. While it’s very true that the older Baby Boomers are starting to use the Internet, it’s quite clear that Social Sharing sites are held in the grasps of younger adults.
How loud of a Social Media voice do these candidates have?
Comparing the size of each candidate’s Social Media presence, we can gauge user following and overall reach to get a better sense of which candidate is best utilizing Social Sharing and how many users and fans they are actually reaching through their various pages.
Governor Romney rounds out his Internet presence using;
While President Obama’s list is longer with;
Arguably, Twitter and Facebook are the two most popular Social Sharing tools today and these two candidates are certainly using them rabidly. President Obama’s Twitter ‘team’, consisting of his personal account, Vice President Biden’s account, First Lady Michelle Obama’s account, the Forward Obama2012 account, and the Truth Team account are well-stocked with upwards of 23,700,000 followers combined. On top of that impressive stash of Twitter pages, his Social Media team has organized state-specific Obama accounts so that his supporters can follow news pertaining to his campaign strictly involved with their area. Mitt Romney’s overall Twitter campaign presence is not as easy to find from his website. Clicking the link to Twitter takes you just to his account, whereas President Obama’s link to Twitter lists several places to find his campaign’s various pages. Through the occasional ‘Follow Our Team’ Tweet, we can see the various accounts associated with Mitt Romney; his personal page, the Romney Response team, Paul Ryan’s personal account, a Team Romney account, and a handful of other advisors and campaign leaders for a total upwards of 1,880,000 Followers combined.
Looking at their Facebook pages, today President Obama has 31,250,792 Likes while Mitt Romney has 10,475,115 Likes. Though the President has had surplus opportunity to harvest such Social Media attention, Facebook is an incredibly powerful tool for these two candidates. Their posts to Facebook have the potential to reach millions of ‘Friends of Fans’ whenever someone hits the Share button, and the posts themselves act as forums for open discussion on hot topics. So, not only are supporters sharing the messages of the candidates, but they are sharing the positive and negative responses from each side, of varying age ranges. We can see these reactions in consistent amounts based on post topics; each side has their share of negative comments, which tend to spark heated debates. While for companies using Facebook such debates could promote a negative image, for candidates it is important to have an open venue that welcomes discussion.
Users of Tumblr may be split fairly evenly between male and female, but the majority of users are aged 18 to 49 [source] which makes Tumblr a prime source of young adults who openly share their passions and beliefs. Tumblr is growing in popularity outside of the election, but if we look at the candidates’ pages we can see some differences. While the Tumblr accounts are aesthetically similar with simple layouts and clear messages, President Obama’s Tumblr page has far more participation that Mitt Romney’s Tumblr page, which we can tell based on the number of re-blogged posts. President Obama’s Tumblr is more frequently updated by the hour, while Mitt Romney’s tends to skip a couple of days here and there. On top of that minor difference, Obama’s Tumblr posts made by his Social Media team will see anywhere from 300 notes to over 10,000 notes, whereas Mitt Romney’s Tumblr posts average anywhere from 30 notes to 500 notes. While ‘notes’ themselves are a total number of both Likes and Shares in the Tumblrsphere, they are indicative of a page’s overall popularity and of the value of the messages being delivered.
Google+ is a venue that, though it immediately created a buzz when first released, has lost some interest due to users seeing it as a lack-luster version of Facebook. Both Presidential candidates seem to understand the importance of reaching users via Google+ because, with a high rate of middle-aged males using G+, they have a unique internet audience to tap into. So what are the numbers? Currently Mitt Romney has +994,869 fans on his Google+ page, and President Obama has a whopping +2,249,932 fans, giving the President an edge on delivering Social Media to his young, male demographic. G+ can also provide more interconnected sharing as it deals with personal circles, making the user feel directly connected to each candidate through family and friends with similar interests. It seems that with Obama’s higher number of ‘circles’ on G+, his Social team better understands this idea of interconnectivity.
One surprising tool used by President Obama and not by Mitt Romney is Pinterest. President Obama’s Social Media team is making excellent use of Pinterest, with categories like ‘Just the Facts‘, ‘The First Family‘, and ‘Snacks of the campaign trail‘ full of photos that go out to over 35,000 followers but not updated very often. On top of that, Michelle Obama’s team has a Pinterest page, as do a couple of pro-Obama states. With a demographic of about 70% Female with 50% of users having children [source], Pinterest is an excellent way for the candidates appeal to young, working mothers. While Mitt Romney does not appear to have an official Pinterest page, he does have several pro-Romney Pinterest support pages with around 2,000 Followers. Because Pinterest’s network grew 4,000% in just the past six months [source], it is an invaluably popular image sharing tool that could be better used in this election.
YouTube is being used to it’s fullest potential, by both candidates. President Obama’s 253,407,036 video views on top of his 247,866 subscribers equate to impressive online marketing opportunities. Mitt Romney’s 27,528,384 video views and 25,786 subscribers don’t quite stack up but still leave an impact in terms of viral video sharing. While YouTube sees over 2 billion video views per day, and has 70% of traffic coming from outside of the United States [source], it may not be the best resource to gauge Social media impact on an election win, but it is still a decent indication of online popularity. Through the simplicity of sharing videos, candidates have an open window with which they can air their positive and negative advertisements to billions of Internet users every single day.
Does it really matter to the election, in the end?
The impact of Social Media on advertising has become massively apparent in recent years. It is estimated by Nielsen that, of the 245 million Internet users in the United States, Social Media venues are utilized by 80% of them [source]. Because the purpose of Social Sharing is not simply to put information out there but to take information in, this means that companies and important figures have an enormous audience to reach online via Social Media venues.
As the Baby Boomer generation begins to meld in with Generations X and Y, using the Internet to keep in touch with family and friends and share interests, Presidential candidates can shift some attention from traditional advertising mediums like television, radio, and print to reach a new, incredibly receptive audience. These Social Media users, young and old, are influenced by what they see being shared from friends and family and are thus vulnerable to persuasion. I believe that in this election, more so than any election we’ve seen yet, Social Sharing and the way candidates are using such tools, will have a vast impact on young voters.
Clearly, President Obama is winning this Internet Election when number of Followers are tallied across the board. This doesn’t mean he has the young internet-based vote in the bag, but it does mean that his ability to create Socially Viral posts across numerous venues is far more advanced than Mitt Romney’s. Recognizing that it can take time to build these pages up and that President Obama has already had many years to do so, it is important that any candidates who would like to run for President in the coming years begin harvesting their online presence today, so that they may reap the Social Sharing benefits when the time comes.