Will Facebook Decide Whether Obama Or Romney Is Winning The Digital Race?

By Jennifer Moire 

The highly competitive presidential election is heating up on Facebook and across social media channels, and raw data from a new Pew Research Center Project for Excellence in Journalism study examining the campaigns’ use of digital resources shows President Barack Obama besting Gov. Mitt Romney.

But a closer inspection shows that both candidates are not engaging with voters on Facebook and other media channels as much as they could be. And the jury is still out on whether Facebook engagement and social media efforts actually drive votes on Election Day.

Pew studied the the volume and type of content each campaign posted on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube between June 4 and 17. Among Pew’s findings:

  • The campaigns published a total of 782 posts during the two-week period, and the Obama campaign posted nearly four times as much content as the Romney campaign and was active on nearly twice as many platforms.
  • Obama’s digital content also generated more response from the public — twice the number of shares, views, and comments for his posts.
  • On Facebook, the divide between the Obama and Romney camps was more narrow, with Pew studying 34 of Romney’s posts and 27 of Obama’s.  The gap was far greater on Twitter.
  • Obama’s Facebook posts generated significantly more digital activity than Romney’s posts, however, with Obama supporters liking 1,124,175 Facebook posts versus 633,597 likes for the Republican candidate.

Republican digital strategist Vincent Harris penned a rebuttal of the Pew data in a BuzzFeed post this week. Looking at Facebook in particular, “the only metric that matters,” Harris said it’s impossible to not only really know how many posts a page administrator is making, but also to measure interaction given the platform’s geo-targeting capabilities. He added:

If the Obama and Romney campaigns were using Facebook effectively, they’d be posting state-specific status updates and graphics/videos, etc., into individual states. These posts would not be public to the average visitor to their pages, but the interactions with these posts would count in the overall “talking about” number. As campaigns continue to geo-target posts, the ability of the press and academic outlets to properly analyze pages will greatly diminish.

Harris said Romney is as forward-thinking as Obama in the campaign’s use of Facebook, including the launch this week of Facebook offers to sell campaign staples such as yard signs and raise money.

Readers: Which presidential candidate do you think is winning the Facebook war?