Can Elizabeth Warren beat sitting Republican Sen. Scott Brown to become the junior senator of Massachusetts, a seat once held by the “Liberal Lion,” Edward Kennedy? Polls are tight. But social media shows surprising pockets of strength for Warren’s upstart campaign.
The Senate race between Brown and Warren is one of the hottest political races in a year where most attention has been spent on the battle for the White House. Brown won the seat in 2010 after a special election took place to replace Kennedy, who died in 2009. Brown's win was a surprise for many, considering Massachusetts's liberal roots.
However, a major factor in Brown’s victory was a calculated effort on social media, one that left Democratic opponent Martha Coakley in the dust.
Brown used Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and even a homegrown social network, the Brown Brigade, which became critical in helping supporters find each other and organize on their own. Those efforts were key in turning him from nameless state senator to legitimate contender within weeks.
In the days leading up to the Jan. 19, 2010 vote, views of Brown's YouTube videos hit half a million, with attention-getting spots where the candidate talked about his pickup truck and evoked President John F. Kennedy, Time reported in a postelection analysis of his victory. Meanwhile, Attorney General Coakley’s videos only gained 51,000 views.
Rob Willington, the campaign's social media strategist, later told Time, “We ran circles around her. It was incredible.”
But can it happen again? It's tough to say, but here's how it stands today. Brown still has a sizable number of fans from his first run for Senate, numbering more than 240,000 on Facebook. Warren is lagging behind considerably, with only 110,000 likes.
However, a closer inspection of her page shows more interaction with users. Brown’s posts typically get a few hundred likes apiece. Warren’s post range in the hundreds to thousands of likes, suggesting her Facebook user base is more engaged.
Meanwhile on Twitter, Warren hold 3,000 more followers than Brown, who has just over 15,700. Mentions of the two on Twitter appear to be pretty even now, according to Topsy.com, after a month where Warren strongly outdrew Brown.
And on YouTube? Well, Warren has been a viral sensation on her own with her comments on taxes and income inequality.
All of this means one thing: It's going to be a tight race. But as we've seen before, social media and polling data can reflect each other. Warren’s Twitter advantage may not mean much, since so few people rely on Twitter for political news. Meanwhile, on the polls, just as he does on Facebook, Brown has an edge, leading Warren by nine points last week.