Rhode Island Candidates with the Most Social Media Reach
Saturday, February 08, 2014
"It makes little sense for candidates these days to set as their primary goal to obtain more followers than his or her opponent. Even teenagers have become more discriminate in their social media use and no longer gage popularity solely on the number of Facebook friends and Twitter followers," said Rhode Island College Professor of Communications Valerie Endress.
With the election cycle in full swing, GoLocal looked at who has the most Facebook likes, Twitter followers, and interactions -- and talked with political communications experts as to the importance of social media in a campaign.
See Who Has Most Facebook Likes, Twitter Followers BELOW
Endress addressed the race to gain more "likes" and "followers" -- and said that candidates should be more concerned with the audience itself.
"The ultimate goal is for candidates to capture the interest of opinion leaders--journalists, millennial political junkies who will work for campaigns, and other politically minded citizens who will repost campaign messages," said Endress. "This sort of targeted strategy will yield far greater results than an obsession with numbers."
In terms of what the campaigns put out on Twitter and Facebook, Endress said, "Every candidate searches for the social media 'sweet spot.' How much is too much? That's the key question. There is no magic number."
"The public is much more likely to tolerate more frequent postings if it's news they can use--such as announcements of campaign events, articulation of the candidates position on key issues, a well-placed critique of an opponent's position, etc," said Endress. "Yet, there's still too much of a good thing. Candidates have to be discrete about their messages. Smart campaigns will keep a close eye on the number of followers. When that number begins to decline, it's an indication that the social media strategy isn't working."
Old School vs. New School
Indiana University sociologist Fabio Rojas released a study last August which analyzed tweets during the 2010 Congressional election cycle -- and found that candidates with the most tweets won the election over 90 percent of the time.
However, Rojas told GoLocal that only after "thinking about the fundamentals," should a candidate then turn to social media.
"A voter is not going to change their mind based on a tweet," said Rojas. "Social media is not the silver bullet that people want to believe. I think of it as a thermometer as to how a candidate is doing."
Referring to the basics, Rojas said, "It's all about starting with fundamentals. You've got to get to the registered voters - it's all about that list. They've got to figure out among that list who they can count on to show up. And when it comes down to getting someone out, you have to do something to get them out of their chair to the polls."
Rojas spoke to the role that social media -- mixed with traditional politics -- played in President Obama's campaigns.
"The clever thing about Obama was it was a mix of old school -- and new school," said Rojas. "Facebook was used for fundraising, but then there were meetups. The moment I knew he was on a whole other level is when I got a knock on the door from someone from the IBEW who was there to say," I'm here to make sure you're voting for Obama" - and that was months ahead of time. They clearly identified thought a database that identified me as a likely voter.
New Trends in Social Media
Endress spoke to new trends in social media gaining traction. "We've seen a growth in social media platforms such as "Thunderclap," that are designed to connect like-minded voters and allow social media users to recruit followers to join campaigns. The White House has experimented with this particular platform and we'll see further development and use of these tools in the future as more and more citizen groups and campaigns take advantage of these efficient methods designed to connect a message to a voter."
In the meantime, Rojas said that social media monitoring could help a candidate in a race that might not have the resources to put towards extensive polling.
"My research has shown that social media is a "buzzometer" of a politician's strength," said Rojas. "It could be useful to keep track. A decent quality poll can be $5000, $10,000. If you track online, you can get a rough estimate of where you're at, for much less."
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