ABC News on Santorum’s Super Tuesday Social Media Surge

Howdy folks, I’m back from SXSW and none the worse for wear, despite the best efforts of man, beast and beer. One story that almost slipped through the cracks while I was gallivanting about: ABCNews’s Amy Bingham picked up on the Super Tuesday social media chatter about Rick Santorum and correctly noted that much of it was negative. She pulled on that thread a bit, exploring the relationship between a candidate’s social media “buzz” and his actual support. E.politics gets a quote in the process:

Colin Delany, the founder and editor of, which analyses how politicians can best use social media, cautioned that this support online does not necessarily translate into support at the polls.

“It’s about like trying to predict an election based on how many yard signs someone has,” Delany said. “Sometimes it’s a good reflection but certainly not a definite correlation.”

There is a correlation between a politician’s ability to stimulate a following on the web and the organization and enthusiasm they are likely to have on the ground, Delany said.

We’ve talked quite a bit here recently about what social media monitoring can and can’t predict — for instance, if online enthusiasm were all that mattered, President Ron Paul would be running for reelection this year. But of course, internet activity does mean SOMETHING, since if no one’s talking about a candidate at all, that’s not such a good sign (which is what I was getting at in the last sentence of the quote).

Even when social media activity isn’t fully organic — for instance, if a campaign has grown its Facebook following through advertising — you can at least look at trends, for instance examining comments and “likes” on individual posts to get a sense of people’s level of involvement and excitement. Also, check out this example of the kind of messaging analysis social media lets you do, again from Amy’s article:

A Socialbakers analysis of the Republican presidential candidates” Facebook posts shows that while Romney has his eye on the general election prize, Santorum is still entrenched in the GOP primary battle.

The words Romney most frequently used when talking to his 1.5 million Facebook fans over the past two months are “America” and “President.” Santorum”s most commonly used word, on the other hand, is “Romney.”


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Colin Delany
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