Facebook Fact And Fiction In The Republican Primaries

The votes are in from the New Hampshire primary, and Facebook reactions to Mitt Romney's big win and Ron Paul's second place finish were wildly varied.

The votes are in from the New Hampshire primary, and Facebook reactions to Mitt Romney’s big win and Ron Paul’s second place finish were wildly varied.

Facebook is a great resource for capturing social media sentiment on election nights. And, what a night. According to Politico, the final results were:

  • Mitt Romney, 39.4 percent;
  • Ron Paul, 22.8 percent;
  • Jon Huntsman, 16.8 percent;
  • Newt Gingrich, 9.4 percent;
  • Rick Santorum, 9.3 percent;
  • Rick Perry, 0.7 percent; and
  • Buddy Roemer, 0.4 percent.

While Romney has the “Mitt-mentum,” all of the candidates have vowed to fight on in the South Carolina primary January 21.

The latest results got us wondering about Facebook’s role in the Republican primaries. With all the talk of fan totals, candidate surges, and viral reach, is Facebook really a predictor of results or one of several indicators that factors into a candidate’s success at the polls?

Fact : Mitt Romney, who leads the GOP field in Facebook fans with 1.3 million, is marching toward the nomination. He also raised the most money of any candidate in 2011, and has been preparing for a presidential run since before 2008.
Fiction: Number of Facebook fans make a winning candidate. If fans alone mattered, Michelle Bachmann and Herman Cain would still be in contention (they currently rank third and fourth in Election Tracker 2012 based on their early online momentum.)

Fact: Facebook is effective at organizing supporters, sharing messages, videos and crafting a candidate’s narrative. A winning candidacy also requires money, organizing strength on the ground, and a well-performing candidate and campaign staff.

Fiction: Facebook fans and momentum translates into votes. Ask Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Jon Huntsman, Jr., who have all experienced spikes in support on the social network yet are limping into South Carolina.

Fact: Facebook is an effective low-cost tool for candidates who don’t have a lot of money to buy advertising time, hire staffers in every state or cultivate a wide fundraising network.

Fiction: Social media will secure the nomination.

Fact: Jon Huntsman, Jr., Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum saw surges in Facebook fans that could have correlated to paid advertising buys, increased media attention, poll results or debate performances.

While Facebook is valuable — and let’s fact it, fun to use — during election season, it’s proven to be a lagging, rather than a leading indicator, when calling winners at the polls so far.

But a well conceived Facebook page is still critical in communicating a candidate’s overall brand.

And the quality of the interactions with a candidate’s supporters on Facebook still rules.

Have you been following the Republican presidential primaries on Facebook?

Lead image courtesy of MSNBC.