Eight reasons social media doesn’t matter in the GOP race

In honor of Mitt Romney winning Tuesday’s Iowa caucus by a mere eight votes over Rick Santorum, I’ve monitored tweets, Facebook posts, and the blogosphere to bring you the eight reasons that social media doesn’t matter in the GOP race…(And yes, you read that right; I’m setting my love for all things social aside to offer a few realistic reasons for how social media buzz doesn’t translate into votes…)

1. Social mentions equal celebrity status, not victory. Ron Paul dominated the social graph, totaling five times more mentions than Romney or Santorum or even the president himself. As of today, two days after the caucus, he is still leading the social mentions over Romney and Santorum, both of whom finished before him on Tuesday.

2. Social media reflects what people are talking about, not who they’re voting for. Remember Herman Cain? Rack your brain — yep, there he is, the Georgia jack-of-all-trades who dropped out of the race after facing serious allegations of sexual harassment. In October, Mr. Cain was leading the Facebook Buzz, generating an average of 80,000 mentions on the social network daily. And now, he’s not even a player at all.

3. (Local) Community matters. Local news still rules. Even in the days of the digital age, local television news is still the number one source of news for the majority of people, according to Pew Research Center’s State of the Media 2011 Report. As bloggers and tweeters and proponents of everything digital, we may want to step back and see that people still value local opinions and information over standard social media blasts.

4. Followers aren’t always supporters. Former U.S. Speaker of the House and current GOP candidate Newt Gingrich has over 1.3 million followers on Twitter but has been repeatedly criticized that many of his followers are bots or from outside the United States. A core of active, engaged followers can be much more reflective of a candidate’s popularity than the number of followers or fans. In addition, many individuals will follow multiple candidates to see their tweets and posts, even if they have an unfavorable opinion of the individual.

5. In campaign season, engagement is sparse. Understandably so, few candidates actually seem to respond to comments and posts on their pages. Instead, individuals tend to spar amongst themselves in the comments section of candidate’s posts. Whereas social media is intended to be, well, social, the influx of feedback and opinions seem to make candidates slow to respond — if they bother to respond at all.

6. Passion offline trumps passion online, at least when it comes to voting. Successful candidates need to take that passion people express online and carry it over offline. President Barack Obama was successful with this tactic when launching  MyBarackObama.com  (Mitt Romney has a similar site, MyMitt.com). This allowed individuals who were passionate about the current president to translate that support into tangible, viable votes through more traditional canvassing methods.

7. If you’re not the Obama Girl, “going viral” may be the worst thing that happened to your candidacy. Remember that time Rick Perry commented that Social Security was a Ponzi scheme? Or that time Michele Bachmann told America the HPV vaccine could cause mental retardation? Social media fueled the spread of these gaffes, and thousands watched the videos or read about these missteps on their Facebook walls or Twitter feeds. Attention does not always equal positive attention. (Actually, in today’s world, it rarely does.)

8. Thirteen percent. So yes, thirteen is larger than eight, but thirteen percent is the amount of Internet users who use Twitter. That’s it. That’s less than 1/5 of Americans using a social network that everyone loves to talk about (or at least try to talk about…Gov. Perry, it’s twitt-er, not tweet-er).

It goes without saying that candidates need to be on social media. It can be a powerful fundraising tool and even canvassing platform if used correctly. However, retweets don’t equal votes. Facebook comments don’t equal votes. Followers don’t equal votes. Translate that support offline, and then you can see how that “like” equals votes.

GOP candidates. Image courtesy of cbsnews.com


About Abby Ecker

PR pro and healthy living blogger in the First State
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3 Responses to Eight reasons social media doesn’t matter in the GOP race

  1. Amy Bishop says:

    I love the thoughts this post sparked. Do you think Ron Paul is so heavily mentioned on social media because he is more popular among young conservatives? While he didn’t win, I think they could be a big part of why he did as well as he did. Imagine how he would have performed without that social media following.

    While everything you say is true, I think it’s very hard to make an argument that social media doesn’t matter in the race. Simply think of the impact social media has on donations and the importance of that in the primary (not to mention the general election). The candidates and PACs who had less money did much worse in Iowa, and they will need better organization online and in person to succeed in the future.

    While Twitter isn’t used by a huge amount of the population, it is an important part of the lives of people who do use it. Don’t forget about the importance of other social media platforms. I think more than 60 percent of all adults use social media, that’s all ages. So the usage rate for those under age 40 is much higher.

    I think the greatest goal of the candidates should be to have a presence on social media that generates positive conversation and engagement with voters on a local level. Sure it seems like candidates are not doing those things right now, but shouldn’t it be their goal to do better. Imagine the success they would see from positive social media involvement among their supporters and by engaging with them directly. I don’t think you should write things off because they aren’t doing them currently or because sometimes negative comments crop up.

    • I agree 100% with everything Amy said. As I articulated last night on Twitter, while social media/Twitter may not matter to some people, it definitely has a huge impact on what people see, what people read, what people believe and what people donate.

      All the candidates should have a social media presence. I think over half the news media outlets said that social media made a huge case in the Obama presidential race. We’ve already seen candidates flocking to YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.

      Social media shouldn’t be discounted and it definitely matters in any race.

  2. I think #4 convinces me alone. I personally feel like people talk about people they don’t like more often than those they do…we love to criticize and joke. Maybe unless social media sentiment analysis is performed on the content, predictions from social media are more predictions of celebrity status than perceived eligibility for pres.

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