#Election: Was Social Networking the ‘Change’ Voters Were Looking For?

The U.S. Senate stayed with Democrats. The U.S. House went to Republicans. And the electorate went the way of....social networking.

The U.S. Senate stayed with Democrats. The U.S. House went to Republicans. And the electorate went the way of….social networking.

That’s the morning-after recap of the 2010 midterm elections, an election season that saw social media used at a whole new level by campaigns, politicians and voters alike.

On Facebook alone, more than 12 million people clicked the “I Voted” button yesterday, compared to about 5.4 million in 2008. More than 20,000 people had already unlocked the “I Voted” badge on Foursquare early on Election Day.

It was only two years ago that President Barack Obama revolutionized politics through the use of social media, an electoral train he rode all the way to the White House.

In 2010, however, we saw social media move beyond just a campaign-organizing tool to something used by voters themselves to follow, engage in and direct the course of the elections.

Tea Party activists connected through Facebook, Twitter and blogs. Millions of people, connected through social networks, traveled to Washington, D.C. to restore America/fear/sanity.

Google empowered social networkers to become their own talking heads, Twitter became election central on Election Day, and Facebook began to look more like C-SPAN.

In a sign of what’s to come, campaigns began to scrutinize social networks as closely as polls, and rightly so.

Facebook reports that, overall, 74 percent of candidates with the most Facebook fans won their contests. In the 19 Senate races, 81 percent of candidates with the most Facebook fans won their contests.

And, where in 2008 Democrats led in social networking and won on election night, it was Republicans that reigned supreme on both fronts this time around.

Close monitoring of 18 million Facebook pages by our sister site, AllFacebook, found that Republican candidates were the fan favorites on the social networking giant.

On Election night, the GOP had 3,463,167 fans versus 1,446,861 for the Democrats.

The top three politicians with the most fans were Republicans Sen. John McCain (716,362 fans), Gov. Jan Brewer (345,052 fans) and gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman (207,317 fans).

In an era when the New York Times has more Twitter followers than print readers, 2010 was the year that mainstream media went viral and voters turned to social networks first for their election news.

Online traffic to 100 top news sites peaked at 4.6 million page views per minute, setting a record for a non-sporting event, according to Akamai’s Net Usage Index for News.

Facebook partnered with ABC News to host a Town Hall, and election night quickly became a worldwide trending topic on Twitter with hundreds of thousands of Tweets rolling in.

The Washington Post bought the hashtag #Election as a promoted trend, and the New York Times launched a tool that monitors Twitter for posts about candidates.

Keep in mind, this was all in a span of two years.

Tell us what you think. How will social media and politics intersect in 2012?