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Monday, 22 April 2019 02:10 am

Active social media users making their mark on this election

SOCIAL media pioneer Barack Obama may have the raw numbers, but Mitt Romney’s followers are talking about him just as much as Obama’s.

While Obama can claim 66% more followers on Twitter than Romney, the number of Romney’s supporters actively engaged with him is equal to the number of Obama’s followers tweeting about him.

The number of active followers is more important than having sheer numbers. There is a difference between those who simply click the “follow” button and those who actively engage and talk about a politician.

People who follow politicians on social media sites are already politically minded, and unlikely to change their views because of a status update, but active supporters can be convinced to take more action.

Social media sites allow politicians to gather data about candidates because personal information is readily available.

It also allows politicians to highlight certain policies that will appeal to a certain demographic and downplay others.

Todd Van Etten, managing director of social mobilisation company Crowdverb, told he thinks that in both camps “there’s one guy whose only job it is to target 18 to 24-year-old Latina females on Facebook”.

Obama pioneered the use of social media in presidential election campaigns in 2008 with his use of Twitter and Facebook.   He has 31,322,865 followers on Facebook compared with Romney’s 10,594,602 but only 2,884,682 online followers are actively engaged and talking about him, while 3,283,749 are talking about Romney.

During his presidency he has also started broadcasting his weekly Saturday addresses on YouTube as well as on the more traditional media platform of radio.

This election campaign he has also been exploring new social media platforms such as tumblr, pinterest, google plus and reddit.

Leading up to the election, Obama held an AMA (ask me anything) forum on reddit where members of the public asked him questions about student loans, space programme funding and beer.

This innovation has been important to his traditional younger demographic.

Romney has opted for more traditional ways of campaigning. His volunteers are making 3.5 times the number of calls andknocking on four times as many doors as did previous Republican candidate John McCain’s.

Policy in this election has been overshadowed by the #hashtagwar as coined by Bloomberg.

Hashtags are used on Twitter to group tweets into categories, and this election the categories have been comments taken from the debates.

Romney’s “big bird” and “women in binders” comments as well as Obama’s “horses and bayonets” and “Romnesia” comments have spawned viral hashtags as well as many internet memes (internet photos with superimposed logos).

Real-time engagement tool developer Livefyre analysed voter feedback to get to the  issues according to voter comment.

During the first presidential debate the most important topics were obamacare, taxes and debt/deficit, according to Livefyre, which also said former US president Bill Clinton received a lot of mentions.

Debate two highlighted oil/gas, jobs and taxes, and people were also talking about former president George W Bush.

Debate three covered jobs, Israel and Iran.

According to Livefyre, the three issues that will determine the election are jobs, taxes and oil/gas.

Whether or not social media coverage of policy will affect the result is yet to be seen.

Social media has become a cheap, easy way to do grassroots campaigning and both candidates have urged voters to donate on their social media pages.

Of Obama’s total receipts 34% have come from individuals, compared with 18% of Romney’s, proving that social media use is still highly effective for Obama.   Supporters have also been rallied to vote, with both presidential hopefuls starting Facebook apps to encourage supporters to get to the polling booths.

Romney’s app is called “Commit to Mitt” and it encourages supporters to send messages to friends in battleground states encouraging them to vote for Romney.

Obama’s app, “Commit to vote”, is much more general and leads people to voter registration tools.

This election, both candidates are also fighting for the women’s vote, with “Women for Obama” competing with its 1.16 million followers against “Moms for Mitt” with 92,250.

The equal level of engagement with both candidates matches the latest BBC poll predictions which also have them neck-in-neck.

To follow the tweets: is the best place to go. It features a running timeline of tweets as well as a constantly updating graph showing how many new followers each candidate is gaining and the number of @mentions, and number of retweets

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is a Whitireia journalism student.
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