Thanks to social media, we can scrutinize candidates in ways never before imagined. In an earlier post, I explored how the first four candidates used Twitter to enhance their announcements. Now, USA Today is analyzing the candidates' first day impact on Facebook. In what promises to be an interesting series of articles, especially given the never-ending list of new candidates launching campaigns for the GOP presidential nomination, Paul Singer explores which states generated the biggest Facebook buzz for each candidate on the day of their announcement, as well as other articles exploring the relationship between Facebook buzz and electoral popularity (here and here). These analyses offer a great opportunity to compare outreach strategy for each candidate AND the response to it.
In the Day One Facebook analyses, Singer and his team (with the help of data from Facebook), shows the top five states reacting to the announcement of each candidate. As you might expect, the candidates do well on their home turf. Cruz lit up Texas, Sanders generated a lot of buzz in New England (relative to the rest of the country), etc. Clinton generated a lot of buzz in Arkansas, but New York, the state she represented in the Senate, was not among her top five.
For the most part, each candidate generates the most buzz in a unique set of states (compared to each other), with some interesting exceptions. Both Santorum and Sanders, polar opposites on most issues, but both with populist creds, lit up Oregon. Huckabee and Clinton both generated buzz in Arkansas, but that is not a big surprise.
The biggest overlap seems to be Carson and Huckabee, who lit up Tennessee, Mississippi and Louisiana among their top five. The other big overlap pair is Clinton and Paul who each had DC, West Virginia and Kentucky among their top five. For all of the effort to label Clinton as a northeast liberal, her Facebook buzz has her pegged as more of a southerner.
Singer also noted that after the first wave of candidates, the levels of Facebook buzz waned as subsequent candidate threw their hats into the ring. But just when that downward trend seemed to suggest degenerating social media interest, Rick Perry announced and got a Facebook bump. While it is too soon to draw definitive conclusions, it is possible that the level of Facebook buzz generated by candidate announcements is affected as much by fatigue as it is by the buzz-worthiness of the candidates. The modest bump Perry received could be attributed to his comic notoriety or perhaps his dashing new pair of spectacles.
It will be very interesting to watch these reports over the course of the campaign. My own monitoring of the 2012 campaign suggested that social media buzz correlates with success in the opinion polls. For example, when Herman Cain was atop the heap, he was getting 50% more engagement on his Facebook page than Mitt Romney, despite having only one quarter of the number of page fans.
This relationship between social media buzz and candidate popularity in the polls remains uncertain and USA Today's coverage of it will prove to be very interesting. For my own money, I am betting the relationship is real.