Thursday, November 11, 2010

Social media lessons from “shellacking” in U.S. election

A week after U.S. voters gave Barack Obama a “shellacking” at the polls, the post-game analysis is in full swing.

From discussions of strategy, the president’s vulnerability, and the popularity of tea, the political brain trust to the south is easily filling column inches and airtime on the cable news networks.

Certainly there are lessons to be learned for Republicans and Democrats alike, but what about communicators in Canada?

One article that caught my eye was a piece in the Globe and Mail that looked at the Republicans’ successful use of social media in the campaign. In comparing the two sides, the article noted that the Grand Ole Party had a huge advantage in its presence on Facebook and Twitter. The GOP had an average of 38,718 Facebook fans per candidate, while the Democrats were only able to garner 8,260. A similar pattern emerged on Twitter, with the Republicans having an average of 14,009 followers per candidate versus 2,591 for the Democrats.

Is this becoming “a deciding factor in politics” as the article claims? Hard to say. But it is safe to assume that candidates who are able to attract more followers will be able to get their message out to a larger audience, especially when said followers summon the power of the “re-tweet”. Whether this is enough to drive people to the polls is yet to be determined.

With that said, you better believe that in Ottawa political marketers are studying these numbers right now to understand how or if they actually translated into votes. As our minority government teeters on the verge of an election, prospective candidates will be increasingly revving up their Facebook engines and driving out tweets.

At the same time, commercial marketers would be wise to develop a little research in this as well. As more businesses head to social media to reach new customers, it is important to understand what successful strategies turns a “follower” or “friend” into a customer, or in political-speak, what transforms a follower into an actual voter.