By this time in the campaign, most everything that can be said about social media's impact on the 2012 presidential election has been said, written, reblogged and, of course, tweeted. On Wednesday night Twitter set a political record for number of tweets generated during the debate and while many complained the high volume made the social media site impossible to monitor, there's no doubt that Twitter further cemented its role as the definitive interactive platform for politics in 2012.
But there's indeed more to dissect from this historic social media election. Some research released Friday (Oct. 5) by media marketing agency, ZenithOptimedia examined the data over a 24-hour-period following the debates to see if the social conversation matched the generally accepted narrative that Mitt Romney's debate performance bested Barack Obama's—or if perhaps the numbers tell a different story.
While the research is fairly straightforward and collected straight from the official Obama and Romney Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube accounts, data from Facebook shows an interesting surge in Romney likes and fans compared to Obama. While Romney saw 29 percent growth in Facebook likes over the 24 hours since the debate, President Obama saw a 27 percent drop in likes.
Similarly, while Obama's fan count hardly fluctuated during the debate, Romney saw a nice 2.9 percent increase (though Obama still leads handily 29.2 million to Romney's 8.2 million).
Or course, the data may be an indicator of debate interest more than any game changing swing in voter sentiment. As Tech President's Micah Sifry argued last January, social metrics are, at best "a very low-level indication of interest, an invitation to start a relationship that campaigns need to convert into real support." So it's possible that Romney after his strong debate showing will have a marginally larger interested audience.
However, the statistics also show a high engagement favoring and defending Obama after the debate, with a 41 percent increase in YouTube comment mentions and a 13 times higher frequency of reweets from the official Obama account.