Twitter to Presidential Candidates: Positive Messages Get More Play

By Jennifer Moire 

In a few weeks, the amount of conversation on Twitter about Obama and Romney will reach a 1 to 1 ratio, despite Obama having far more followers, said Twitter’s Adam Sharp at this morning’s National Journal briefing from the Republican National Convention in Tampa, FL. A few months ago, that ratio was 4 to 1 in favor of the President. And which type of posts get the most reaction? Those that reinforce positive messages.

Romney campaign digital director Zac Moffatt and Facebook manager of policy Katie Harbath joined Sharp on stage, as well as Google politics and elections spokesperson Daniel Sieberg (shown left to right), with National Journal’s Major Garrett and co-anchor of the CBS “Morning News” Norah O’Donnell as moderators (far left). The panel looked at the state of the play of social media in the 2012 cycle, which Harbath says is markedly different from 2004 when the social network was only a year old.

This cycle is all about engagement, as opposed to the number of followers a candidate has, Moffat and panel members reiterated. For the Romney campaign, those measurements fall into two categories: Vanity metrics and actionable metrics. “It doesn’t matter how many people are following you if they’re not engaging,” added Moffatt.

For example, when the Supreme Court ruled on health care reform recently, the engagement rate when the ruling came down was 1.5 percent on Obama’s Facebook page and 27 percent on Romney’s. For both sides of the aisle, the Court is a rallying point which is played out on the social networks. Moffatt says the Romney campaign defines success by level of engagement—how many are liking, sharing or commenting at any given time. He likes to see the “talking about” number growing as a measure of success.

Online advertising is also a huge area of growth for the Romney campaign and one where they hold a strategic advantage. Because its an area that’s constantly evolving, his team has the skill set to compete whether through a Facebook ad or sponsored tweet. “Social helps us syndicate our TV ads,” Moffatt noted, so that supporters who see our TV spot online will suddenly advocate it on social media.

Moffatt sees his role as seeding conversations on these networks that can reignite a topic or issue. Facebook is about sharing and validating communications, and Twitter is about broadcasting a message. Working together, these tools give a candidate a greater reach–which is really the goal of any digital campaign.

Both Harbath and Moffatt noted the impact that visual tools such as infographics and visual platforms like Instagram have on engagement levels and causing a post to go viral.

Currently, the Romney campaign’s digital team is 110 strong and growing.  And the leadership sees digital as an area of growth, especially for Republicans in general.

Each of the social media representatives talked about what they see as game changers, as compared to past elections.

Harbath noted that having a candidate engaged across all social media platforms—which then moves a voter to the polls–is the biggest change.

For Google’s Sieberg, mobile has enabled the biggest transformation, as compared to 2008. The company also has a Google + studio at the RNC, so if visitors can’t come to Tampa, they can still be part of the conversation.

Social media enables a “democratization of access,” as Sharp calls it.

Nothing has the scale or reach of Facebook, added Moffatt, and with so many people on these networks, the power of third party validators—seeing what your friends or network is sharing—becomes that much more important.

Another difference is in sheer volume of activity. Sharp noted that yesterday there were more tweets sent about the convention before it even started than during the entire 2008 Republican convention.

There’s also the “scalable retail politics” that digital media like Twitter enables, Sharp added. The tone of the conversation changes because elected officials, like Governor Snyder or perhaps Twitter’s most famous politico, Newark Mayor Corey Booker, engage in one-on-one discussions.

By the way, for those who are wondering, Governor Romney no longer sends his own tweets, while President Obama signs his personal tweets with his initials.

Jennifer Moire is a contributing blogger to, a public relations and media consultant, and a long-time politics junkie.