Yes I know, to those of us in The Profession, it sounds like a rhetorical question: can social media win the presidential election?. Of course the answer’s “no” — it’s incredibly rare for a single factor of any kind to win a competitive election. But it’s also true that social media has been a big and noticeable part of this year’s presidential race, and the UK’s Channel 4 decided to ask the question yesterday. In the process, they helpfully froze the candidates’ social media numbers on the eve of the election:
On Twitter, Obama has 21.5m followers; Romney has 1.6m. On Facebook, Obama has 31.6m likes; Romney has just 11.6m. The list goes on – Obama’s YouTube channel has 254,000 subscribers, Romney, just 27,000; Obama’s Instagram feed has 1.5m followers, whereas Romney’s has only 68,000.
Numbers are one thing, but engagement’s another, which the article points out, noting that both Romney and Obama have active supporter bases online. And the author doesn’t shy away from the REAL question: “do tweets – plus Facebook likes, Tumblr followers, and all the rest — really translate into votes?” That’s where e.politics comes in, with some pleasantly skeptical quotes toward the end, including:
In fact, Delany believes the focus on social media is misleading.
“Social media gets a lot of attention because it is what you can see from the outside, but it is absolutely not the most important part of the online political campaign. Using the internet through a wide variety of means to get people to act in the real world, that’s important,” he said.
The technology is far less important than what you’re asking people to do — vote themselves, and get other people to vote.”
There’s more where that came from, including talk about how what WE do on social media matters at least as much as what the candidates do: “More important than what candidates do is what supporters do on their behalf.” Check out the piece and see what you think — context is everything, in social media AND in politics.