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In less than 36 hours we'll know the outcome of the one of the most talked about events of the year: the US elections. 2008 was marked as the first election that used social media with Obama far outpacing Senator McCain.

Now the mudslinging has hit every social platform and not only are we hearing the candidates point of view but news outlets, bloggers and anyone with a Twitter, Facebook or YouTube account are taking to the internet to say who should be the next president.

Global social advertising platform, Ebuzzing, is one of the many companies analyzing social media to predict the outcome of the election. They have pulled together over 925,000 tweets, 159,000 forum posts, 75,000 articles and 6,600 blog posts. According to the team at Ebuzzing, this amount of conversation equates to a media value of over $16 million.

Though both candidates are heavily promoting themselves online in this election, Obama still appears ahead of the race even if major news organizations are showing him neck and neck with his opponent Mitt Romney. In fact, Obama as 57% share of voice over Romney.

@BarackObama far outstrips @mittromney with 21 million followers compared to the 1.68 million Romney has (we've included an infographic with more comparisons below). Obama also has 31 million Facebook likes, and has been featured in 18,742 posts while Romney has 12 million Facebook likes. Not that this means either candidate is feeling the love online.

According to new research by the Pew Research Center, media outlets have been extremely negative to both candidates this election but social media has been even more so. When analyzing mainstream coverage from August 27 to October 21, 19% of stories about Obama were positive while 30% were unfavorable and 51% mixed. When you look at the tone of conversations on Twitter, though 25% of conversations are positive over 45% is negative.

The 2008 election, in comparison, showed Obama's coverage to be nearly twice as positive (36% vs. 19%) and more positive than negative (36% positive vs. 29% negative that year).

For Romney, 15% of mainstream press was positive, 38% negative and 47% mixed and Twitter showed around the same positive sentiment of 16% but a huge jump in negative comments with 62% of them being unfavorable.

The shift to YouTube and multi-screens

Another interesting play for candidates this election has been the move into YouTube and the consideration of how the electorate are interacting across four screens now. Google have been trying to push candidates further into their ad space across multiple platforms with it's own guide to advertising during elections called "Four screens to victory."

It has included statistics from Neilsen highlighting what impact candidates using four screens will have:

With close to 1/3 of likely voters not watching live television and news outlets live streaming election and debate coverage through YouTube, the candidates have been heavily promoting themselves on the world's most popular video platform.

In fact, YouTube creators have commented that Romney ads are appearing on videos tagged with Obama, and if this is the case, then most likely Romney videos have also been targeted with Obama ads in return. With YouTube's geo-targeting capabilities, the candidates can create hyper–targeted messages by postal code, city, DMA, or state which will surely be used right to the end in the swing states.

Until the election passes, none of us will know how much social media and the use of four screen advertising will have had an effect on the results. Obama seems to be the forerunner but since not all voters are digital natives or engage in online platforms, this will be a test for the success of future campaigns using new technologies.

Will it matter how many twitter followers you have when it comes to casting ballots? What is your take on how the public have been affected by the candidates' use of social media and online advertising?

Heather Taylor

Published 5 November, 2012 by Heather Taylor

Heather Taylor is the Editorial Director for Econsultancy US. You can follow her on Twitter, Google+ or Pinterest.

236 more posts from this author

Comments (2)


Jeremy Taylor

Obama may have more followers, but if you look at the mentions of each candidate they are very similar. I've been using Sentiment Metrics to monitor the buzz and found that in 7 days there were 656,707 mentions of Obama and 655,634 of Romney.

Drilling down into the Sentiment however, Obama has slightly more positive mentions and fewer negative mentions. I'd say that is what counts, not the number of followers.

My results are at:

almost 4 years ago

Heather Taylor

Heather Taylor, Editorial Director at Econsultancy

That's true - if you look above in the article Positive sentiment around Obama is higher but negative sentiment for each candidate is outweighed by negative sentiment for both....the internet has not been happy during this election...

almost 4 years ago

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