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Facebook as Predictor of the 2010 Elections

A few days ago Facebook released a study that showed that in most cases the candidate with the most Facebook fans won the election.  Specifically, they wrote:

“The Facebook political team’s initial snapshot of 98 House races shows that 74% of candidates with the most Facebook fans won their contests. In the Senate, our initial snapshot of 19 races shows that 81% of candidates with the most Facebook fans won their contests.”

Folks a lot smarter than I am have deftly pointed out the problems with the concept that you can predict election results based on the number of Facebook fans.  We have no idea how many of the fans actually live in the district of the politicians they are fans of.  Tea Party and colorful folks tend to attract more fans that more straightforward candidates.  Etc.  Etc.

However, I did want to add one small point to the discussion.  For politicians in lower profile races (Congress in particular), the number of Facebook hands is more an indication of how hard they have worked to recruit fans than it is of voter enthusiasm.

These fans don’t just appear out of the blue – campaigns work hard to actively build their fan base using a variety of tactics.  Do they have a prominent Facebook link on their site?  Do they include their Facebook address in email communication?  Do they post compelling content?  Do they run Facebook ads in an effort to promote their page?

Politicians with national profiles can simply put a Facebook page up and watch the numbers grow.  But your run-of-the-mill Congressional candidate has to work to grow their supporter base.  If you put in the time and spend some money you can make your numbers go up.  If you don’t, your numbers will stay pretty flat unless you are a sensation like Christine O’Donnell or Sharon Angle.

Get-Out-The-Visualizations! Social Media & Election Day

Besides Slurp140, here are a few of our favorite tools for following the election via social media that have recently come to our attention. Is there a website or tool you recommend?  Let us know!

 New York Times: The Election Will Be Tweeted (and Retweeted)

nyt_twitter_joemillerAlthough it is difficult to follow or discern the content of the incoming tweets, the side by side comparison feature is worth exploring. For instance, in the case of Joe Miller and Lisa Murkowski in Alaska, the NYT graph indicates that at least in terms of volume, the buzz around Joe Miller is significantly higher. Also worth exploring is the NYT’s use of customized Google News searches to displays recent headlines about the candidates from the NYT, Washington Post, CNN, the AP, Politico, Fox News, NPR, ANC and CBS. (If your interested in more comprehensive social and traditional media monitoring, our Impact Watch service combines media monitoring with sentiment analysis that can be branded to your organization.)

Politics + Foursquare = GeoPollster

Location-Based Polling - GeoPollsterIn response to my 10/28 post on Foursquare’s I Voted badge, Adam Kraft of GeoPollster wrote in and informed me of GeoPollster, which allows you to cast your vote whenever you check in on Foursquare! After logging onto the GeoPollster site, you are asked to select your political party (Constitution, Democratic, Green, Libertarian or Republican) and add the GeoPollster account as a Foursquare friend.  Although so far, only 272 Fouraquare users have done so, I predict this app will soon be incredibly popular in Washington D.C. as a new front in ongoing completion between Democratic and Republican Hill staffers for domination of our local watering holes.

Facebook Ratings: Election2010

While we will soon know whether in-state Facebook fans are more valuable than out-of-state fans,  the blog All Facebook has created a nifty page that gives a quick overview of how the two primary national parties stack up on Facebook. Although it would be nice to see how all of the races stack up, we understand and appreciate how much a programming would be involved in tracking 435 House and 37 Senate campaigns.
Facebook Ratings - Election 2010Facebook Ratings - Election 2010- house and govs

Ten tips for getting more out of your Facebook updates

In addition to building great websites, we (The Bivings Group) help clients manage their online campaigns on an ongoing basis.  Helping our clients create and maintain compelling Facebook pages for their organization, cause or business is an increasingly large part of this work.

Based on a lot of trial and error, following are some quick tips for making your Facebook updates more compelling.

(1) Keep your updates short.  Mostly, you should be brief because people are typically scanning through updates in their news feed quickly and  skip over items that are too verbose.  More practically, if you go over 320 characters you’ll see a little “more” button pop up  at the bottom of your update which very few people will click on (see example from WWF below).  I would try to keep updates to under 200 characters, and never go over 320.


(2) Don’t post too often.  On Twitter, posting 10+ times a day is accepted and can actually help you build a following.  For a Facebook page, that is way too much content and will lead to people tuning you out.  I’d suggest posting 1-5 updates a day, with 2-3 being the sweet spot.

(3) Be strategic about the time of day you post.  A recent study shows that Facebook usage spikes at 11:00 a.m., 3:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. ET.  Try to post your updates during those times to ensure that your users actually see your post.

(4) Show some personality.  When you are running a Facebook page for a brand or organization, it is easy to fall into writing updates that are cold and distant.  Writing like an actual living, breathing person will increase your effectiveness.  Zappos and Bonobos are examples of brands that do this well.

(5) Post updates that encourage interaction.  Ask open-ended questions.  Run informal polls.  Posting these kinds of updates will encourage comments and help build your relationship with your user base.

(6) Interact with your base.  If people take the time to comment on your update, you should take the time to respond and/or thank them.  Work to build relationships.

(7) Post photos and videos.  Updates that include multimedia content tend to attract more comments and likes than straight text updates.

(8) Try to embed content whenever possible.  In our experience, updates that are primarily links to external sites tend to attract less interaction than ones where the full update is within Facebook.  So it is smart to try to embed the content within Facebook whenever possible.  What does this mean?  Don’t link to a photo on Flickr, upload it to Facebook.  Don’t link to a YouTube video, post it as a video in Facebook.  Instead of linking to your blog post, consider importing it as a note so users can read the whole thing right there.  Sometimes you have to post a link out, but the more you can keep the content self contained in Facebook the higher your interaction rate will be.

(9) Give your Facebook followers some goodies.  Lots of big brands give special coupons and deals to their Facebook fans.  Make this concept your own.  Raffle off a book or t-shirt.  Release some news exclusively on Facebook.  Do things to make your fans feel special and to give new folks an incentive for “liking” your page.

(10) Experiment and adjust.  The audience for each page is unique.  Try a bunch of different things and see what works and what doesn’t.   Use Facebook insights to see how you are doing.

Winning the U.S. Senate Social Media Election- CA, IL, NV, WA, WV Edition

congress on facebookSince our 2006 report on the quality and content of campaign websites, we have seen a marked improvement across the board in sites that incorporate multimedia content, personal fundraising, the Spanish language, and of course, candidate presences on social networking websites. With the 2010 midterm elections just a week away, one would assume that given the wide praise and success of  President Obama’s 2008 campaign website and social media presence, that senior members of his own party in tough campaigns would be the most adept at online communications and social media.

Surprisingly, one only need do a quick Google search for “Harry Reid” to find out this is not the case,  as Angle supporters own the keyword “Harry Reid” on Google AdWords.  If you do manage to find Senate Majority Leader Reid’s website, with the exception of the splash page, his official website is almost exclusively devoted to Sharron Angle.  Conversely, Angle’s website splash page and Facebook fan page are all about President Obama. Call me “Old School” but I find this strange. When you spend more time attacking your opponent than pitching your case, perhaps voters can be forgiven for selecting “none of the above” on their ballots.

Given that the majority of polling fails to account for voters who only have cell phones and the general fact that membership in social networking sites is younger, we conducted some brief research into the quantity and quality of online support for five very competitive Senate campaigns. Although the raw number of a candidate’s Facebook fans and Twitter followers is a quick and easy metric that is useful for gauging momentum (see the Facebook Ratings: Election 2010 post on AllFacebook), we used Slurp140 over the last 7 days to track activity on Twitter and combined the results with Facebook’s ad targeting tool.

By The Numbers
In examining the closest five Senate campaigns in which the Democrats have to win at least two to remain in control of the Senate: Boxer vs. Fiorina, in California, Murray vs. Rossi in Washington, Kirk vs. Giannoulias in Illinois, Raese vs. Manchin in West Virginia, and Reid vs. Angel in Nevada; our team came up with the following results:

Facebook- Most in-state supporters:

  • Boxer with 20,560 over Fiorina’s 9,320
  • Murray with 15,460 over Rossi’s 3,460
  • Giannoulias with 10,520 over Kirk’s 6,020
  • Manchin with 3,140. (Stats for Raese N/A- Manchin’s total count is 1,710 higher)
  • Angle with 8,780 over Reid’s 6,880

Facebook- Most out-of-state supporters:  Of Sharron Angle’s 87,880 fans over 18, Only 8,780 claim Nevada as home on Facebook. Perhaps this race is getting some national attention? While Harry Reid isn’t doing much better, he is benefiting from a flaw in the algorithm as Facebook’s Ad Manager shows 22,020 supporters for Reid, 6,680 of whom list Nevada as home.

Most Educated Supporters: Those who self identify as college grads prefer Boxer, Murray, Giannoulias, Manchin and Reid.

Most Engaged Supporters: Sharron Angle, by a landslide. Since 10/18, things posted to the Angle campaign wall have attracted an impressive 24,841 total ‘likes’ or comments. Otherwise  Fiorina (3,686) tops Boxer (2,716) Rossi (4,713) over Murray (3,578)  Giannoulias (1,629) over Kirk (1,377) and Raese (984) over Manchin (846)

In terms of how Facebook statistics correlate with presence on other social networks, for whatever reason the GOP seems to be more adept at Twitter as:

Most Twitter Followers: Fiorina, Rossi, Kirk and Angle are all ahead. In West Virginia, neither candidate has put much time or effort into their accounts.

Highest Volume Twitter: On October 20th we set up Slurp140 to track all mentions of official candidate accounts in California, IllinoisNevada, Washington and West Virginia. Here both the total volume of tweets and number of people tweeting is generally in line with national media coverage. Given that since October 20th, only 950 people have referenced the WV Senate campaigns, perhaps the candidates there can be forgiven for not devoting time or resources to this medium. While there are certainly a large number of anonymous accounts and trolls, a quick look at the leaderboards indicates that with the exception of West Virginia, those on the  leaderboards are predominantly against the Democrats.

1. Nevada: 11,490 tweets by 3,292 people.
2. California: 10,838 tweets by 4,365
3. Washington: 9,595 tweets by 2, 253 people
4.  Illinois: 4,390 tweets by 1,166 people
5. West Virginia: 2,795 tweets by 950 people

Most YouTube Views: Perhaps due to the intervention of some Demon Sheep, Fiorina is way ahead of everyone with 857,007 total views. GOP a
lso seems to be winning the YouTube war as with the exception of Manchin, Angle, Rossi and Kirk are all ahead of their opponents.


1. While all politics may be local, modern campaigns are now national.

2. Many campaigns, despite having substantial resources are failing to follow the basics.

3. As we noted in our 2006 report– challengers, regardless of party affiliation are still the most adept at using new and emerging web tools. While the Democrat’s strength on Facebook in these specific races might be the exceptions that prove the rule, overall when you compare the national party committees candidates, the GOP is proving to be the most versatile producer of social media in 2010.

New Facebook Groups- What They Mean for Your Clients

facebook-groups_20101007111108_640_480 When it comes to social media presence, in our experience the needs of our clients are as varied as their topics. Some are looking to inform or motivate their fans to take a certain action while others might have a more insular focus. It is for the more niche clients that the recent changes to Facebook groups may be more important.

Although the conventional wisdom states that every
organization / cause / candidate should set up a fan page and then do whatever it take to amass a large following,  if your client is focused on a very specific topic or geographic area- A Facebook Group may now be the better option.

For an excellent walkthrough of Facebook Groups including the improved Email, Document and Chat functionality, the blog “ Inside Facebook” is highly recommended. 

The following are some guidelines for determining the best approach for a client’s Facebook presence. While your approach should largely dictated by the clients goals and resources, here are some ideas to guide the discussion:

Political Candidates

While your candidate should definitely have Facebook page that allows fans to sing up for emails, donate money, ask questions and so on- What about your supporters? Facebook pages are just not well designed for supporters to communicate with your campaign or with each other.

If you’re working on a large statewide / national campaign, the new functionality of Facebook Groups makes them an excellent way to organize and connect your supporters by issue area, age group or geography. Set up the Group, provide the resources, give your best activists administrative access and let them get to work.

For smaller local or county races, one should consider how many fans you can reasonably expect to be interested in your campaign for School Board / Fence Viewer / Hog Reeve or Sealer of Lime and Brick.
If you are only going to get 500-1,000  fans: Why not direct them to a place where their support can have the most impact? Will anyone outside the area be interested in the dynamics of your race in their newsfeed?  If the answer to this questions is maybe or probably not, consider a group.

Local or Issue Based Advocacy

The most important factor to consider here is exactly what you hope that an online tool, like Facebook will help you achieve. If your a non-profit whose audience consists largely of academics with advanced degrees discussing their latest finding about a rare species of whatever, a  Facebook group may be a better bet. Likewise if your issue is really only going to be of concern to people in a certain geographic area, a group might be a better bet. Finally if your looking for a semi-private place to have privileged, but not secret discussion of campaign strategery, a group may be a better bet.

Above all, while the new privacy settings for Facebook Groups are a step in the right direction, one must absolutely keep in mind that:

  1. You are using a free service. Facebook is probably doing more for you then you are for them.
  2. Facebook does not guarantee anything. (See #8 on the Facebook Privacy Policy)
  3. If you want a truly private and customizable social network, you going to have to pay for it- Consider setting up your own Ning Network.
  4. Never email / post / tweet anything that would cause irreparable harm on the front page of the WAPO.

If you have seen a particularly good examples using the new Facebook groups, please let us know!