With the 2012 race for the White House in full swing, President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are facing off on the campaign trail and online. On social media, and specifically Facebook, Romney is seeing a surge while Obama's fan base is becoming stagnant, but what does that mean beyond the numbers?

According to data from both Facebook and SocialBakers.com, Romney has seen a swell in popularity recently. From June 11 to 17, one of his strongest weeks yet, he gained more than 71,000 new fans; according to Facebook, June 10 was his most popular day ever. Meanwhile, President Obama gained about 77,000 new fans during the same time period. While that is a greater number of fans, it is down from previous weeks, and in the last month, Obama has only had a 1.7 percent increase in fans, whereas Romney has had a 10.8 percent increase.

Of course with 1.9 million fans, Romney still has a long ways to go before catching up to Obama's 27 million.

Interestingly, data from Twitter does not reflect the same information. According to 2012twit.com, in the 24 hours from Monday night through Tuesday, Obama gained more than 36,000 new followers; Romney only netted 2,000.

Several things could explain the trends seen on Facebook. The first is that Republicans are still gathering around their candidate following a splintered primary season and that means “liking” Romney on Facebook. The boost on Facebook may also reflect the general popularity of the president right now. According to Real Clear Politics, Romney recently won two opinion polls, whereas earlier in the month Obama had a better showing.

But regardless of numbers, both candidates are making huge pushes on Facebook and are often posting multiple times a day, with each item getting hundreds or even thousands of likes, shares, or comments. The push shows the importance of remaining engaged with a candidate's followers in different ways, not just pushing posts about policy. Some of the most popular items on Romney and Obama's walls are photos with a short message. They are easy to produce (just a picture and a sentence), but often get the biggest reaction. For example, on Father’s Day, Obama posted: “President Obama on being a dad: “My hardest but always my most rewarding job.” It was a simple message with a huge payoff – More than 207,000 people liked it, more than 7,000 commented on it and 10,000 people shared it. The shares are perhaps the most important because every time someone shares something on their Facebook wall, it exposes the candidate to more users and, possibly, more likes.

That's how the 2012 race will be won... at least on Facebook.

Image via Facebook