Social media has become an integral part of political campaigns, to the point that some folks believe that a candidate’s social media following or favorable online buzz correlates to that candidate’s chances of winning the next caucus or primary. Now that the
circus has left town candidates have moved on from New Hampshire to South Carolina, let’s look at how social media fares as a predictive element on the campaign trail.
ABC’s political blog The Note analyzes the numbers of fans or followers each candidate has on Facebook, but also looks at how active these individuals are in terms of interacting with the candidate online by mentioning, liking, or linking to the Facebook page. Blogger Amy Bingham also reflects on what the candidates’ campaigns can tell us about the prospective voters through these interactions and how this data might tailor campaign advertising.
Also, Infographic Journal looks at the number of Facebook and Twitter followers of some of the candidates in the GOP primaries, suggesting that Twitter may be a proxy for the recent caucuses in Iowa as well as the upcoming primaries in South Carolina and Florida. Their examination of the positive Internet chatter, or favorable sentiment, also lends itself to being a possible indicator of relative success in these contests.
A recent CNN article by Micah Sifry, co-founder of the Personal Democracy Forum, is skeptical of this notion. He notes that a link, like, follow, or Tweet does not necessarily indicate endorsement of a candidate or any underlying grassroots following. He points out that “growth in followers or high numbers of retweets are just an indication of notoriety or celebrity.”
To this end, Huffington Post’s Morra Aarons-Mele, CEO of Women Online, writes about several trends she has observed thus far in the election cycle, including the notion that some of the chatter surrounding candidates are “micro stories,” which “burst into the news cycle, get promoted on blogs and social media sites and then are quickly replaced by another micro event.” However, how much of this sort of social media activity is supportive of a candidate and how much is snarky rhetoric that the blogosphere has become known for?
Whether or not you believe social media can predict the outcomes of the primaries and ultimately determine the GOP nomination, it will come down to real people voting in person for their candidate of choice. With the South Carolina race right around the corner, both social media and traditional media are sure to continue to watch this election cycle closely.