The Social Anatomy of Cory Booker’s Misstep

Tracking the Newark mayor's social buzz

Exactly how far does a political misstep travel in the world of social media? Thanks to a number of emerging analytics tools—newsrooms, campaigns and their respective staffs can spend time picking apart the ramifications of a candidate's actions in the ever-exploding social sphere. Cory Booker's appearance on Meet the Press this Sunday provided an excellent opportunity to gauge just how much a gaffe resonates, and how long it lives.

Using VoterTide Pro, a social analytics dashboard focused solely on tracking the every move of politicians across social networks, websites and blogs, it appears that Booker's critique of President Obama's attack ads blew up on Twitter. But like so much on the social Web, the gaffe burned hot, only to fade away.

Tracking the number of Twitter '@ mentions' can typically provide a solid indicator of social buzz. Booker is known as a prolific Twitter user. Boasting of well over a million followers, he averages more than 3,000 mentions a day.

That number spiked last Sunday (May 20) as Booker's Twitter handle was mentioned 12,546 times, according to VoterTide's data. On Monday, the conversation then exploded with the opening of the weekly news cycle as Booker's handle received 28,360 mentions. The pace has since cooled, however, with Booker receiving nearly 17,000 mentions on Tuesday and only 3,000 as of Wednesday evening.

But the real question still remains, what exactly does this kind of social media bounce mean? The answer to that is far more complicated. Social media monitoring alone reveals only so much, but early indications are that the mayor's presence online is undamaged. Since Sunday, Booker has gained 6,190 Twitter followers and 1,083 Facebook fans—only a 1.5  percent increase, but a bigger jump than usual. As political gaffes and flare-ups seem to live more on Twitter, it makes sense that Booker would receive a larger bump (he also boasts far more Twitter followers than Facebook fans), but neither increase is much to write home about.

In Booker's case this flare-up seems to illustrate a bigger point about the online political news cycle—namely, that most people outside the Beltway don't seem to pay attention and the big news of the day will be forgotten tomorrow. The real consequences of these actions will only reverberate behind closed doors at Obama campaign headquarters and throughout hallways in Washington. While Booker's comment earned him a great deal of press (his official YouTube follow-up to his Meet the Press appearance generated over 60,000 views in a little over three days), the news cycle will swallow up his remarks, and Booker can get back to saving people from burning buildings.