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In 2008, social media took center stage in presidential campaigning and has since been widely adopted as a viable and necessary means to reach voters.

President Barack Obama embraced the changing communication landscape and forced politicians across the board to accept that in order to stay relevant in voters’ eyes, they needed to be accessible – social media provides that access. In fact, a lot of people say that social media (and tapping into the users who use social sites) is the reason why President Obama won – he currently has more than 12 million Twitter followers and more than 24 million Facebook likes.

So, what does this mean for the 2012 elections? What can the GOP primaries tell us about social media use and its ability to win an election?

Thus far, the primaries have been inconsistent with not one candidate really standing out. While it was pretty close to a tie, Santorum technically won in Iowa; Romney took New Hampshire; and Gingrich won in South Carolina. Of the remaining four, Ron Paul is the only one who has not won in any of the primary elections. However, he came in second in New Hampshire and beat Gingrich in Iowa.

If you take a look at the candidates’ social presences (as of Jan. 24), it’s pretty clear that not one of them has really stepped up and owned the landscape. Sure, some of them excel in one area or another, but not one of them really takes the cake:

  • Ron Paul:

787,107 Facebook likes

131,097 talking about (17%)

210,551 Twitter followers (Paul has two verified Twitter accounts, with the second having 121,290 followers)

  • Newt Gingrich:

248,455 Facebook likes

35,369 talking about (14%)

1.4 million Twitter followers (it is widely believed that a majority of these are paid for via Twitter follow sourcing tools)

  • Mitt Romney:

1.3 million Facebook likes

115,984 talking about (9%)

288,366 Twitter followers

  • Rick Santorum:

86,561 Facebook likes

24,400 talking about (28%)

92,380 Twitter followers

Interestingly enough, there have been several conversations lately as to whether social media conversations can actually predict the winner of an election. If you’d like to follow along and test the theory, VisiOne Online Research is using online conversations and research to predict which candidate will take each primary election.

We think that it will be very interesting to see how the candidates’ social media efforts change and grow as the election continues and if there will be a final correlation between social presence and Republican nominee.

One thing is certain; however, whichever candidate wins the nomination they had better be prepared to step up their social game. Since taking office, the current administration has appointed an entire staff dedicated to the White House’s social media presence. The President has held town hall meetings on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. And, the White House has uploaded more than 2,000 videos to their official YouTube channel, racking up nearly 58 million total views.

Social Media Presidential Elections

Image Source: favo.rs

They definitely have an active captive audience, which will be hard to compete with.

Do you think an election can be predicted based on social conversations? In your opinion, are any of the current GOP candidates doing a better job with social media than the others?


Jessica TurnerAs a social media specialist for The Modern Connection, Jessica provides innovative and strategic solutions that help businesses connect with their customers.
Jessica has a degree in Journalism from Kansas State University and has cultivated her knowledge with experience that includes national B2B and B2C PR campaigns for an array of clients.
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