Three months ago, I wrote about how President Obama appeared to be dominating Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in the realm of social media. I highlighted Obama's huge advantage in number of Facebook likes and Twitter followers, and noted his focus on the youth vote.
Since then, however, the Romney/Ryan ticket appears to have taken big steps toward evening the playing field. Obama continues to have many more Facebook likes than Romney, with almost 31 million Facebook likes to Romney's 9.5 million. And he appears to dominate even more on Twitter, with almost 21 million followers to Romney's 1.5 million. Beneath the surface of these figures, however, lies a much different story. At the time of this writing, both candidates had about the same number of mentions in the past 24 hours, Romney with 22,898 and Obama with 22,259. That said, Obama had more retweets with 7,480 to Romney's 2,818.
Also, it's worth noting that Mitt Romney is gaining Facebook likes much more quickly that the President, adding more than 7 million new likes since the writing of my previous article in July. Obama, meanwhile, has added about 3 million new likes. More telling than this, though, is Facebook's "People Are Talking About This" metric. This number is pulled from various interactions on Facebook over the past seven days such as liking a page, posting on a page's wall, liking a page's post, mentioning a page, and so on. Despite the disparity in likes, about the same number of people are talking about Mitt Romney's page as President' Obama's (2.5 million).
The situation looks better for Republicans when you look at the presidential tickets as a whole. GOP Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan has racked up more than 4.5 million Facebook likes, while Biden lingers with about 500,000. Nearly 2 million people are talking about Ryan, compared to about 500,000 for Biden. On twitter, Ryan has more followers with about 425,000 to about 250,000 for Biden. This is especially impressive given that Ryan's Vice Presidential Facebook page and Twitter feed didn't even exist a few months ago.
We obviously need to be careful about jumping to conclusions with these numbers. "People talking about" and Twitter mentions does not mean that all of those conversations and tweets are positive and helpful to the candidate. As a rule of thumb, however, it's probably fair to assume that Romney, as the challenger, would prefer all the talk and press he can get even if he has to take some flak here and there. Name recognition is key, after all, in breaking through to voters come Election Day.
In any case, there is no question that the Romney/Ryan ticket is much more of a force on the web than McCain/Palin back in 2008. I think the reasons for this are twofold. First, the enthusiasm that swept Obama into office in 2008 with a crushing two-thirds of the youth vote appears to have abated somewhat (though Obama still holds a statistical advantage here).
Second, the Republican Party has made it much more of a priority this year to harness the power of social media. Romney is no fool. He knows the power of conservatives' anti-Obama sentiments, and he knows that the internet is the perfect place for expressing such sentiments. We've seen this used extensively at a grassroots level among conservatives, as they've turned the powerful symbols that carried Obama to victory into biting critiques, even turning his own controversial statements into a series of memes.
The Romney/Ryan ticket thus seems to be using the social media channels of their campaign to tap into that rage and provide an alternative to those fed up with Obama's policies. We'll find out in a few weeks if this is helps give them the edge in a contest that is still either man's race.