“Talking about” Obama and Romney on Facebook

May 5, 2012

When President Obama marked the one-year anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s death earlier this week by unexpectedly addressing the nation from Afghanistan, several commentators cited it as an example of the “advantage of incumbency”: the president’s visibility and ability to dominate the news are greater, just by virtue of being president, than those of challenger Mitt Romney, and he should be expected to benefit from the groundwork his campaign laid during the 2008 campaign, particularly its vast network of supporters, donors, and social media connections. 

Indeed, across a number of social media platforms, Obama’s following dwarfs Romney’s: Obama has 26 million Facebook “Likes” to Romney’s 1.7 million; while Obama has nearly 15 million Twitter followers, Romney hasn’t yet hit half a million; on Google+, Obama has just over a 1 million users in his circles, compared to Romney’s just over 500 thousand; on Instagram, Obama has 636,790 followers to Romney’s 9,695. In absolute numbers, Obama seems to own a towering advantage over Romney.

But on Facebook at least, sheer number of “Likes” may not tell the whole story, or even the most important part of it. Last fall, Facebook launched “people talking about this,” a metric that counts interactions with a Page — things like “liking” a Page, commenting on a post, or sharing a photo from a Page — over a seven-day period to measure user engagement.

Here, too, Obama leads Romney in absolute numbers, with a “talking about” total more than twice as high as Romney’s — 283,819 versus 126,990. Yet, as a percentage of overall “Likes,” engagement over the past week is much higher for Romney, at 7.6 percent, than for Obama, at 1.08 percent. 

For comparison’s sake, the activity of Romney’s Facebook followers appears to surpass those of Ron Paul, known for his passionate internet following: of Ron Paul’s 949,319 “Likes,” 24,943 — 2.6 percent — are ” talking about” his Page. And the percentage of Newt Gingrich’s fans who are engaging with his Facebook Page this week — 4,887 out of 295,289, or 1.65 percent — falls short of Romney’s — though it is still higher than Obama’s.

At the party level, too, Republicans seem to be more engaged on Facebook: while the “talking about it” score for the Republican National Committee — which this week launched a new app for Facebook called the “Social Victory Center” — is 6 percent of total likes (312,462), the Democratic Party’s Facebook page, which has a roughly equal number of “Likes” (336,951), is just 2.2 percent. 

Note: The “talking about” numbers on Facebook Pages tend to fluctuate on a day-to-day basis. The Facebook stats cited in the sample above were collected on just one day — May 3, 2012 — and reflect only the week prior.

Photo credit: REUTERS/Lee Celano

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