The 2012 US Election Debates as seen on Facebook
Now that the debates are over, we’ve compiled the Facebook stats from all four of them in one, easy-to-read infographic – well, as easy as these things get, with some explanation and analysis. The infographic can be found here: http://www.socialbakers.com/elections/
Mitt Romney closed his Facebook wall on June 5th this year and Paul Ryan followed suit on August 17th. Neither Obama nor Biden have had open walls during the campaign. Do we approve? No. It’s not very ‘socially devoted’, but going through some of the pretty negative user posts, it’s not surprising. Interestingly, ‘pro Ron Paul’ mentions made up more than 10% of Romney user-generated posts from the first of the year until the closure of his wall.
Disclaimer: Here at Socialbakers, we make a lot of noise about the Engagement Rate as the master metric for rating your social success and generally this holds true – even if some of the feedback is negative: “the only bad publicity is no publicity”. Negative comments are an opportunity for brands to catch and address issues early and turn any rising tide against their product or service. But this is not necessarily true for politicians running election campaigns. Their ‘non-fan’ contingent, their unwilling constituency, will (more) often (than not) post negative comments, tirades and off-topic distracting diatribe that can (slightly) dilute the value of their “Engagement Rate”.
The current Election is one of the most divisive and most negative in history, as well as the most public: thanks to the magic of social media. Shares and likes are a good indicator of positive reaction, whereas laptop political commentary is a wild card. That said, comments are always much fewer than likes or shares (as they require typing) and have little overall effect on the ER, as they make up less than 10% of the total. But for this campaign (in particular), read through some of the comments yourself to get a better feeling of sentiment. Now, on to the numbers:
In the first debate, held on October 3rd at the University of Denver in Colorado, Obama took the social media lead with 1 432 145 “Likes” spread over three posts, which generated 1 640 483 Interactions in total for the day, compared with 1 016 496 for Romney and a total of 1 136 435 Interactions spread over six posts. Romney’s Engagement Rate was just short of 14.12% for this debate, which was quite high, with 5.63% for Obama for the day (his highest daily ER for the debates).
During the VP debate on October 11th, Paul Ryan clearly led the Facebook battle. His four posts that day generated more than ten times the number of Likes compared to Biden’s three posts. Biden had roughly twice Ryan’s Engagement Rate at 30.48%, although this was due to his much smaller, yet obviously dedicated, Facebook fan base. Ryan’s fan count at the time of the debate was 4 230 430 compared with Biden’s 434 940; which goes a long way in explaining the results: more fans, more potential Interactions, fewer fans, easier-to-achieve Engagement Rates.
The second Presidential debate at Hofstra on the 16th, saw Romney overtaking the President, although this was primarily due to the fact that Obama only posted three times and Biden zero compared with the Romney / Ryan machine publishing thirteen posts that day together. They managed to maintain high Engagement Rates of 12.72% and 18.16% respectively, compared to only 3.17% for Obama that day.
During the last debate on the 22nd, held in Boca Raton, Florida, Romney stole the day again in terms of number of posts (6), Interactions (1.17 million) and an Engagement Rate of 11.38%, compared to Obama’s 3.35%. It should be noted (again) that Romney’s Engagement Rate is consistently higher than Obama’s, primarily due to the fact that his fan base is roughly one-third the size.
These data confirm the trend that Romney / Ryan have a definitive Facebook edge despite lower fan bases (they lead or tie in every other metric), but as stated in a previous article, Obama is miles ahead on Twitter.
It should also be noted that Obama’s ‘Reach’ is much wider than Romney’s, due to his much larger fan base. Obama’s most shared post, “If you’re on Team Obama, let him know,” published the day after the first debate, was shared 168 183 times, which was much more than Romney’s September 4th post, “We don’t belong to the government, the government belongs to us,” shared 93 342 times.
The Facebook word clouds show, as is the case on Twitter, that the Romney campaign mentions ‘President Obama’ much more often than Obama mentions Romney; and although this is understandable, given that Romney is running against the incumbent, it is indicative of a negative campaign that runs ‘against’ someone more than it does ‘for’.
Do these Facebook statistics indicate the outcome of the Election? No, because elections are about numbers, numbers of people, people who get out and vote, not ones that stay at home and click Like and Share. Can Facebook activity influence the outcome? Yes, absolutely, as it is a major source of interaction, news, debate and comment – but it will probably have less impact than hurricane Sandy, if the power is still out and the lights are off next Tuesday.