A couple weeks ago I posted about GOP strategist Karl Rove’s plan to woo the youth vote with the new Super PAC Crossroads Generation. It raised some broader questions about the youth-appeal of presidential contenders Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.
The reasons for Obama’s edge here are surely varied and multifaceted, and a big part of it no doubt involves his political views. However, it’s also worthwile to step back from Obama’s and Romney’s ideology for a moment and analyze their respective campaign strategies and social media presence. A quick survey of major social media sites indicates that across the almighty interwebs — which directly determins the “coolness” factor of a candidate or cause — Obama clearly has an edge.
His Facebook page, for instance, boasts upwards of 27 million likes, while Romney just hit 2 million this week. As I scanned back through the highlights on their Facebook pages for the month of June, Romney seemed to be a little bit more active in terms of raw content, with about three highlighted posts per day compared to about two for Obama’s.
On Twitter, there is a similar disparity. Obama’s campaign has almost 16.8 million followers, while Romney hasn’t even hit 600,000. Moreover, Obama's account is much more active than Romney's, tweeting about once an hour during the business day, while Romney tweets only once or twice a day. The Washinton Post has a handy little “Mention Machine” app that tracks the number of Twitter and media mentions that the presidential candidates get each week. Here the numbers are evened a bit. Obama received 243,790 Twitter mentions and 13,057 media mentions this past week, and Romney had 172,301 Twitter mentions and 4,976 media mentions. Again, Obama clearly has more of a presence across the Twitterverse and gets plenty of press across the internet, though the Post reminds us not all of those Twitter and press mentions are necessarily a good thing.
On Pinterest, Romney does not even have a profile — though his wife, Ann, does. At the time of this writing, Barack and Michelle Obama have 25,906 and 30,488 followers respectively, and Ann Romney has 8,547. Again, advantage Obama, though it may not be quite as distinct as the numbers of followers indicate. Michelle only has three boards with a total of 16 pins, but Ann has eight boards with 75 pins, and both are surpassed by the president, who has 12 boards and 182 pins.
And as a side note that’s at least worth pondering, remember that Pinterest is dominated by women users ....
In the Facebook and Twitter statistics alone it means that the Obama campaign reaches well over ten times as many people as Romney in each intial post through the social media powerhouses of Facebook and Twitter. In a country of about 311 million people, the president's 27 million Facebook likes and 16.8 million Twitter followers actually represent significant percentages.
Why the big difference? I suspect the main reason is that Obama has three and a half years of being president under his belt. That's a long time to build up a massive Twitter following and acquire plenty of likes on Facebook.
It appears that Obama is not only more progressive in his politics, but also progressive in the type of campaign he intends to run. As he seeks to rally the youth vote once again and keep his online presence strong, Obama has clearly embraced a strategy that will set a tone for future campaigns. Romney, while certainly not neglecting the power of the internet, may find himself stretched between the cornerstone conservative bloc of older voters (who must turn out strong if Romney is to have a chance) and branding an image that appeals to millennials.