The social analytics firm SocialBakers has produced a series of reports on social sentiment about the election since the Republican primaries kicked into full swing in December and it says Romney's rise to victory corresponded with the best engagement of those contenders on Facebook.
"But with this new head-to-head comparison of the final two, it's quite clear that Obama blows Romney out of the water," Socialbakers CEO Jan Rezab said in a statement.
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Data for the month of May reveals:
-- Nearly five times as many people talking about Obama as Romney. This is based on a Facebook metric called People Talking About (PTA) that measures the number of unique people who have created a story about a Facebook page in the past seven days.
-- Obama gained four and one-half times as many new fans as Romney.
-- The President's Viral Reach exceeds Romney's by almost 25%. SocialBakers defines this as the total number of "likes" and comments multiplied by the average number of friends per Facebook user (140).
Obama's strength on Facebook is not surprising, given that one of the secret weapons in his 2008 campaign was that its digital campaign team included Chris Hughes, who as a Harvard student helped Mark Zuckerberg found Facebook. That presidential campaign occurred as Facebook was surging in popularity, particularly in the youth demographic where Obama dominated that year. Romney was competing for Facebook fans, too, that year, but he didn't win his party's nomination, let alone the presidency. Still, it's a good sign for Obama that his fan base continues to build.
However, the SocialBaker's analysis covers more than fan counts; it also looks at what messages resonated best with Facebook users. It turns out Facebook users were more interested in positive posts highlighting successes or accomplishments or even the candidates' private lives than they were the standard campaign rhetoric.
For example, an Oct. 29 post by Obama highlighting the success of student loan reforms garnered more than 170,000 comments and was shared 1,817 times, with more than 23,000 "Likes." Romney's most engaging post on April 11 blamed Obama for poor employment numbers, encouraging fans to "Like" the post if they "agree he should be a one term president." While the quip did garner more than 60,000 "Likes," it was shared by fewer than 1,000 people and generated only 4,333 comments.
The most "Liked" post of all from any presidential candidate in this cycle had nothing to do with politics--it was Ron Paul's recognition of his 55th wedding anniversary. Paul commemorated the Feb. 1 event with a photo of him and his wife from their wedding day that earned more than 68,000 "Likes" and was shared by nearly 4,000.
"There's been a lot of discussion about whether attack ads and smear campaigns actually work, and it's very interesting that the most engaging posts among all the candidates were the least confrontational," Rezab said.
An excerpt from the SocialBakers study (complete infographic on the next page)