If the use of social network sites is a predictor of success, President Obama will win the election hands down. According to a recent study by the Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ), his campaign posts four times as much content on almost twice as many social network platforms as Mitt Romney’s campaign. Nowhere is the contrast more striking than on Twitter. During the week of the study, Romney averaged one tweet a day while Obama put out an average of 29.
While both campaigns post more about the economy than any other issue, that’s not the subject that most drives the tweets. Obama’s posts about immigration resulted in four times as many tweets as those on economic issues. Women’s and veterans’ issues produced three times as many. Romney’s posts generated less interest but still, health care and veterans issues yielded twice the response as economic ones. In general, Obama generates twice as many retweets, as well as YouTube comments, as the Romney campaign.
One of the most telling signs of how the digital excitement skews is what happened during the Republican and Democratic conventions. According to the Twitter Blog, the final day of the Democratic convention delivered about 4 million tweets which was just about the total number made during the whole three days of the GOP convention. Obama’s acceptance speech alone “set a new record for political moments on Twitter, with 52,756 Tweets per minute coming just after its conclusion.” Among his top tweet-able moments were when he said, “I’m no longer just the candidate, I’m the President,” “I will never turn Medicare into a voucher,” and “We don’t think government can solve all our problems.”
Of course, the director of PEJ says that only about 15 percent of the population is on Twitter, and that they tend to be both young and activists. Still, 15 percent that leans toward activism is a pretty weighty chunk of the electorate. The study further states that “throughout modern campaign history successful candidates have tended to outpace their competitors in understanding changing communications,” citing Franklin Roosevelt’s mastery of radio, John F. Kennedy’s facility with television, and Ronald Reagan’s use of video tape. “Candidates quicker to grasp the power of new technology have used that to convey a sense that they represented a new generation of leadership more in touch with where the country was heading.”
The digital world allows candidates to interact with the electorate directly, especially that young, activist portion. Mainstream media isn’t part of the equation; it’s just the candidate, his message, and the voters. There seems to be no doubt that Obama intends to take full advantage of the tools at his disposal. In other words, Tweet on!
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