With Barack Obama's formal acceptance of the Democratic presidential nomination on Thursday, the general election between him and Mitt Romney officially kicked into high gear. Although it doesn't actually result in votes, tracking the election on social media—via likes, followers, and subscribers—has become a popular way to see who is gaining online momentum in the run for the White House.
In presidential elections, there is something called the “power of incumbency,” and that is most certainly true on social media. Even if Romney has had a Facebook or Twitter account as long as Obama (and both did in 2007, when they were going after the 2008 nomination), Obama is the leader of the free world and has massive name recognition. Romney really only came onto the national stage this year, and his social media clout reflects that. For example, when he won the New Hampshire primary, he had 1.2 million fans on Facebook. Nine months and one nomination later, he has 6 million fans and counting.
Here's a rundown of where each candidate sits less than 60 days from the November vote.
Last October, Romney had 1.1 million fans on Facebook. Almost a year later, he has 6.5 million. That's a pretty solid number, but it still stands in the shadow of Obama's 28 million likes.
Or does it? In the last year, Obama has gained about 4.7 million new fans, whereas Romney has cashed in on more than 5 million new likes. In other words, Romney is gaining fans at a slightly faster rate than his Democratic opponent. Is it a situation where everyone who likes the president already does? Or is it an indication of a nation growing cool on hope and change?
Although many say Twitter is an excellent way to track the presidential campaigns, there are some issues, mostly fake followers. Romney only recently broke the 1 million follower mark, but that was thanks in part to a weekend in July, when Romney mysteriously gained hundreds of thousands of fans, most of which were not real. Granted, news has recently emerged that not all of Obama’s fans have a pulse either. But there is still a huge difference between the two campaigns and the number of followers—perhaps because Obama is just a lot better at Twitter. The president is constantly tweeting and sends out dozens of messages a day, whereas Romney may just send one tweet every 24 hours.
Google+ is a political bizarro world. As the Daily Dot reported in February, when it comes to social media and politics on Google, up is down and down is up. Back then, it wasn't Romney or Rick Santorum winning the day (although in reality they were), but long-shot candidates like Gary Johnson and Buddy Roemer. Even now, Obama is only in twice the number of Google+ circles as Romney is in which doesn't reflect any other numbers on social media.
Neither Obama nor Romney is leaving a stone left unturned online. While both candidates have Myspace accounts, they haven’t been updated in months and maybe even years. In fact, both of their pages might be time capsules to a different time. For example, Romney's Myspace page makes no mention of the 2012 race and his profile picture is still labeled for his “Free and Strong America PAC.” On Obama's page, the last thing to be posted was the video announcing his reelection bid, so at least he's in this election cycle.
Image via Gavin Llewellyn/Flickr