Smolitics: Politicians on Facebook

Social Media and Its Influence on Politics:

Facebook and its influence on business, children, and even our health has been studied and written about to excess. And yet, I find very little from anyone really digging into its influence on politics. (Please leave a comment with links to articles if you know of any good one’s!) To make this article easier (and OK, more fun for me) to write I made up a new word for the use of social media to a political advantage.

Smolitics: defined as a person, place, or thing’s popularity,performance, or general acceptance on social media.

Last November, I posted the following question to my Facebook friends: “Will the candidates with the most Twitter followers and Facebook page likes win this election?” (See the bottom section titled: “My Facebook Friends’ Opinions” for my friends’ intelligent and enlightening commentary on the subject.)

With the presidential elections coming up, questioning the correlation between a candidate’s popularity on Facebook and Twitter vs. his (and sometimes her) chances of being elected is more interesting than ever!

QUESTION: Will social media popularity predict our elected officials?
– Even though 62% of my friends said yes to this, the answer is still: probably not. However, it is important to know the three big reasons why it’s not a good assumption to say the one who has more social media support will win… yet:

  1. Not everyone who will be voting (e.g. many senior citizens), is a member of Facebook.
  2. Lots of people too young to vote can (and do) “like” a candidate.
  3. And finally: Social media is GLOBAL. People all over the world are following Twitter, Facebook and YouTube campaigns of the future leaders of other countries.

IT IS ALSO IMPORTANT TO NOTE:
More seniors are getting on Facebook and those young, passionate citizens are turning 18 – the first 2 gaps are closing.

Facebook Smolitics: At a Glance:

To see who is doing better according to Facebook all I had to do was observe, collect some numbers, and then figure out some “trends” to find out who was the most popular and whose popularity is rising.

The following table shows the number of “likes” I collected from the fan pages for the three main candidates for presidency. The numbers were collected for four weeks on the dates posted in the top row.

Dates Collected -> Tues. 9/18/2012 Thurs. 9/27/2012 Thurs. 10/4/2012 Wed. 10/10/2012
Obama 28,708,230 28,941,859 29,262,662 30,662,814
Romney 7,054,316 7,509,552 8,202,792 8,826,419
Johnson 251,311 265,086 278,818 291,473

My bar graph below shows the number of likes each candidate had on the first day (labeled Week 1). I began collecting numbers on 9/18/2012 and then collected the increases of each candidate once a week. The dates these numbers were collected for the week are specified.

If all we had to do is look at and compare the number of “Likes” for each candidate’s Facebook page, we could quickly conclude that Barack Obama is the more popular of any candidate and he will be re-elected as the next president of the US. But there’s so much more too it. Let’s look closer first at the dramatic increases these numbers each week.

It was predictable that the number of “likes” would climb as we are getting closer to voting time. The following numbers show that this prediction is accurate.

Average Increase PER DAY:

1 & 2 2 & 3 3 & 4
Obama 25,959 45,829 233,359
Romney 50,582 99,034 103,938
Johnson 1,531 1,962 2,109

(These numbers were calculated by taking the number of increase in “likes” divided by the number of days between the dates specified on the graph to your left. There are 9 days between the dates of weeks 1 and 2, 7 days between weeks 2 and 3, and 6 days between weeks 3 and 4.)

QUESTION: Do the politico’s care about their own smolitics
YES! And Facebook is a great example. Look at those numbers increasing!

The fact that Tuesday, November 6, 2012 (voting day) is rapidly approaching isn’t the only reason that these numbers are rapidly rising. You can bet that the candidates have many highly paid smolitical experts blazing the parallel, electronic versions of their campaign trail.

Prime Example: Mitt Romney’s team has purchased multiple keywords for searches in Facebook. To see what I mean, just type in “obama” or even “presi” (the beginning of the word president).

Try it yourself! (FYI: Sponsored ads rotate, so you may not see this every time.)

I took screenshots of mine. Click the thumbnails pics to view a larger image of the sponsored ads my search showed me below:

Romney's facebook sponsored ads

What popped up underneath when I typed "obama" into the Facebook search box.

Romney Keyword Presi on Facebook

What popped up underneath when I started to type in "president" into the Facebook search box.

Numbers We Don’t Know:

It’s already been said that not everyone who votes is a member of Facebook, and that many of those “likes” could come from those too young to vote.

So how does an e-campaign trail blazer know that their campaign is successfully reaching voters?
<- Look to the left and click to enlarge this example of a vital tool utilized for a politician's smolitical campaign.

We (the non-admins of any fan pages) aren't privy to these numbers. But in the insights of these Facebook pages those social media experts are viewing this info daily. It filters people who "like" the page by age (and of course you must be 18 to vote in the U.S.) and by country (the importance of this sort of goes without saying).

I hope you knew about these insights already because all companies executing successful social media marketing collect and utilize this data. Having these numbers for a politician's fan page would definitely help argue the importance of smolitics wouldn't it?

Final Questions

QUESTION: (For citizens of voting age) Is “liking” a politico’s fan page as good as voting for them?
– Of course not, you are allowed to be fans of either page, neither page, or both.

Why would someone not “like” either? – Because of the old social rule: Avoid topics of conversation that include religion or politics. – People have a kind of bravery to speak their mind on outlets like Facebook. If they think you disagree with your “liking” a certain candidate, you can bet it’s going to be made known on Facebook in clear view of all your other Facebook friends. (Don’t you hate that?) So some just avoid the confrontation altogether… This is the type of person who would not wear his/her team’s jersey in another state.

Why would someone choose both? – Either they are still trying to decide on who to vote for or they are like the previous person who chose to vote for neither and are trying to agree with everyone.

QUESTION: Because of all the numbers we don’t know, does it matter which presidential candidate has more fans on Facebook?
– YES! The more likes you have the more support you seem to have. Isn’t that what political campaigns are about…getting support?

It’s the same for anyone who has a Facebook Fan page, they want as many validating “likes” as they can get.

My Facebook Friends’ Opinions

17 voted:
Yes

5 voted:
No

5 voted:
Who cares? / Maybe

 

 

  • Facebook ThumbnailDavid· Answered Yes. It definitely could!
    Seeing as how the younger generation has affected the results of the past few presidential elections, whether they voted (Obama) or didn’t vote (Bush over Gore), and them using Facebook and Twitter as frequently as they do, it definitely could play a major role in getting information to them from candidates. they usually won’t follow/like someone/something that they dislike/disagree with; and if they follow/like a candidate, they’re probably registered to vote. having said that, I know a lot of people who are registered to vote and don’t do anything with political candidates on social networking sites, but I don’t know of any who aren’t registered to vote and like/follow any of these people. so, if they like/follow someone, they probably will vote for them, and in turn whoever has the most likes/followers has a better chance at winning the younger generation’s vote. which we’ve heard many times over recent years, “Get the younger generations vote, and you’re likely to win.” · November 8, 2011
  • Facebook ThumbnailSherra· Answered Choose this if you are afraid to commit to a yes or no. ;) Who cares? / Maybe
    Social Media can get the message out and get great feedback for political candidates, but it’s the voice of the voters who TURN OUT and VOTE on election day who matter…· November 8, 2011
  • Facebook ThumbnailPaul Jr. · Answered Yes. It definitely could!
    It’s worth noting that an incumbent candidate has an advantage here as they’ve presumably had a longer period of time to engage the public socially and attract followers. · November 8, 2011

    • Facebook ThumbnailAmber’s Reply
      Exactly – it’ll be the ones who at least have the appearance of being “accessible” and willing to face feedback (good or bad) head on. November 8, 2011 at 1:50pm
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    • Facebook ThumbnailPaul Jr.’s Reply
      We’ll see how Facebook “friends” translate into likely voters. Seniors were traditionally the best investment for voter turnout, but make up a smaller proportion of social media users (although their numbers are starting to grow). The differences thus far are staggering: Herman Cain has ~25,000 likes compared to Barack Obama’s 23 MILLION. That said, perhaps one senior who isn’t on Facebook and will actually VOTE is worth 1,000 hipsters who “like” Barack and won’t. November 8, 2011 at 2:19pm
  • Facebook ThumbnailMary· Answered Yes. It definitely could!
    Interesting theory…it will be fun to check it out in 2012 · November 8, 2011

    • Facebook ThumbnailAmber’s Reply: I know! in 2012 – can you imagine the influence that Facebook will have? Seeing who your friends and people you sincerely respect are voting for… it can’t be denied that this will definitely be interesting to see what happens. · November 8, 2011 at 1:53pm