Campaign 2012 Social Media Scorecard

Campaign 2012 Social Media Scorecard


As the 2012 presidential campaign continues to heat up, Election Day 2011 is just around the corner. In less than twelve days, Americans will head to the polls on Tuesday, November 8th to cast votes for various state and local candidates. And, we’ll be almost exactly one year away from voting to determine whether President Obama will serve a second term.

Campaign 2012 Social Media ScorecardThis morning, I had the pleasure of speaking at the Holmes Report’s ThinkTank Live event here in Washington, DC where I discussed the evolving media landscape and the role of social media in shaping politics and public policy. In preparation, I got to thinking about how social media was impacting the election process this early in the race. Between the Romney-Perry video battles and the buzz around Herman Cain’s “smoking” ad featuring his chief of staff Mark Block, it was a perfect week to perform a little deeper analysis.

So, I decided to take a look at how some of the top presidential contenders were using various social media platforms. Specifically, I set out to aggregate data to include the number Facebook likes, Twitter followers, YouTube views, Foursquare fans, Flickr photos, LinkedIn friends and Google+ circles. Of course, when measuring ultimate campaign success, it’s not just about numbers but I do think that they can be an indication as to whether a candidate is building support or if specific messages are resonating (i.e. Cain’s 9-9-9 plan).

While researching, I looked for the official 2012 campaign accounts even though there might be other user accounts related to the same candidate. For example, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN-6th) has an official Twitter account (@MicheleBachmann) with over 108k followers that her Congressional office maintains which is different than the account (@TeamBachmann) that her presidential campaign uses.

Sometimes it was easy to differentiate between several accounts because most of the official campaign websites provide links and/or widgets to their social media properties so I didn’t have to rely on search to find the best account. In other cases, it was difficult to locate the proper accounts because they were lost among parody and/or “unofficial” pages likely set-up by supporters.

Below is the complete list of accounts that I was able to locate. Click on the icon that runs horizontally across from the candidate’s name to view the related campaign social media property or group.

Facebook Twitter YouTube Foursquare Flickr LinkedIn Google+
Obama
X
Romney
X
Perry
Paul
X
Bachmann
X
X
X
Cain
Huntsman*
X
X
X
Gingrich
X

The final issue was to determine the order of how I should list each of the candidates. My first instinct was to do so in alphabetical order by last name in the spirit of fairness. Then I considered doing it based on early poll performances, however, I ultimately decided to list them based on what really matters at this point in the race… money in the bank. I used the “Total Money Raised” data provided by Roaring Republican, which posted the latest Third Quarter 2011 Fundraising Numbers as of October 18, 2011.

Key Takeaways

  • Clearly, the power of incumbency is a huge advantage for President Obama. Picking up where he left off after Campaign 2008, the Obama camp now boasts over 23.7M Facebook likes and 10.8M Twitter followers. In fact, the president is the first politician to crack 10M followers and the only non-entertainer in the Twitter Top 10). Basically, he overpowers everyone in the GOP field in almost every category with only two exceptions: 1) President Obama himself did not have a profile on Google+ and 2) the Obama campaign didn’t have a presence on Foursquare. However, the White House does have a branded Foursquare page so I included that in the grid.

    Earlier this week, the Obama 2012 campaign broke new ground when they launched a new page on the popular micro-blogging platform Tumblr which will serve as an ideal host to various forms of digital content and social media sharing.

  • On the other side of the aisle, it’s a pretty crowded Republican field but former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney seems to be emerging as the one to beat as we near primary season — but it’s still early. Romney finishes way ahead of his GOP counterparts on Facebook with 1.1M likes with Ron Paul at a distant second with 565k. Romney has the third most Twitter followers but is second to last on YouTube with only 1.8M total upload views of his 57 videos.
  • Earlier today, it was reported that Godfather’s Pizza CEO and political newcomer Herman Cain is performing surprisingly well in initial primary state polling placing second behind Romney in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida. He’s holding his own in social media, though some of that may be misleading since the most recent “smoking” video attained about 1M views since it was posted on October 19th due to some criticism and scrutiny as to the message behind it. Again, the numbers are impressive but one could argue that it’s not helping the campaign. In addition, he has only raised about $5M so the question remains as to whether he can sustain his poll numbers, continue to build more support, increase his financial position and pose a serious challenge for the nomination.
  • Meanwhile, Texas Governor Rick Perry still enjoys broad support and has a decent amount of cash on hand but his decision to skip some of the upcoming debates, likely after perceived poor performances in the past, has many wondering whether he’s up to the task. Governor Perry and Herman Cain are the only two candidates in the top tier who have a social media presence on all seven of the social media outlets evaluated, though admittedly there’s some confusion on a couple of the accounts as to whether some of Perry’s content was generated due to his role as Governor of Texas or whether it was officially posted as part of the presidential campaign. For example, 13k photos on Flickr seem to be a mix of both — and that’s a ton of photos but nowhere close to the 56k that President Obama has posted, in addition to the 52 sets of photos on the official White House Flickr photostream.
  • Texas Congressman Ron Paul enjoys very strong support online and much of that dates back to Campaign 2008. There are still digital remnants from the race four years ago and it appears that he’s continued to use the “/ronpaul” username consistently across all accounts for quite some time which will certainly skew the numbers a bit. In other words, it’s unclear how many joined his current cause as opposed to 2008, but in some ways it doesn’t matter. Those who supported him in the last cycle may still be loyal this time around and probably explains why he has been able to build up a relatively healthy campaign war chest.
  • The Team Bachmann approach is interesting and makes it clear that there’s a distinction between Rep. Michele Bachmann‘s presidential bid and her role in the U.S. Congress. Of course, there are limitations when posting official tweets vs. campaign updates (i.e. requests for donations) so it’s good to see that they have drawn a line firmly between the two. Almost 460k people like Rep. Bachmann on Facebook and it seems that is her strongest social media outlet with Twitter and YouTube close behind.

  • Perhaps what is most interesting is that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) is dead last in Facebook likes at 157k but wins decisively in every other social media platform with 1.3M followers on Twitter, almost 5M total upload views of 184 videos, 2,800 Foursquare followers and has been added in over 16k circles on Google+. Oddly, no Flickr page for the Speaker but there are over 270 photos posted to Facebook. Yet, despite these impressive numbers, strong name ID and regular media appearances over the years, Newt has only managed to raise $2.6M which is at rock bottom on this list and poses a real threat to the future of his campaign.

Bottom Line

Speaker Gingrich wins hands down when it comes to his digital share of voice but finishes dead last in fundraising. Governor Romney has a strong online presence, as well, and his support seems to be growing the most rapidly both online and off. Herman Cain is making a strong run in the polls but the ability to sustain and raise money will determine how long he remains in the race through the primary season.

It will be interesting to see how these numbers and donations change over the next several months and I’ll plan to post an update as the race matures. In the meantime, would love to hear your thoughts, as well.

As stated at the outset of this post — we are about a year away from the ultimate poll, Election Day 2012. On that day, the only friends and followers that matter to candidates are those that cast their votes!

Here’s a short video that the Holmes Report asked me to post to help promote today’s event. In it, I briefly discuss the importance of social media in the political process.

UPDATE 10/28/11*
Former Utah Governor and GOP presidential candidate Jon Huntsman gained some steam via YouTube when his daughters posted their parody “smoking” video in response to the Cain ad. However, the popular video was posted on a separate account instead of the official Jon2012HQ YouTube channel with 69 videos and over 269k total views. Incidentally, the campaign also has a Jon2012 Vimeo account linked directly from their website. I didn’t include the Huntsman campaign in the original tally, but after the video was released I decided to go back and take another look. Links to the Jon 2012 social media accounts have been added to the chart above. On Twitter, the @Jon2012girls have almost 8k followers which is impressive, especially considering that their father’s campaign account nears 46k. About half as many people support Huntsman on Facebook with almost 22k likes.

UPDATE 11/4/11
For those wondering if the current sexual harrasment allegations leveled at Herman Cain from his time at the National Restaurant Association are hurting his campaign, the answer is that it may be too early to tell. His poll numbers seem to be holding strong and both his Facebook and Twitter support increased with 329,515 likes and 153,506 followers respectively since 10/27/11. However, the real measurement will be whether funds will continue to pour in. If his presidential bid is to survive, there’s no question that this Wednesday’s CNBC GOP debate will be an important night for Cain to demostrate resilience and strength in the face of controversy.

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