After a lengthy, oftentimes contentious GOP Presidential primary, we now know that it's going to be Mitt Romney that takes on President Obama in November. While we know that it takes a all-inclusive strategy to win a Presidential election (touring & stumping, traditional media ads, debate performance, etc.), it has become abundantly clear that social media is going to play a bigger role in 2012 than it has in any previous year. President Obama is credited with being the first true social media president, having mobilized supporters rather efficiently in 2008 - and the GOP candidates took notice of this for their campaigns. Many of them, including Romney, actually launched their campaigns via Twitter and Facebook.
And now that it's Obama vs. Romney, both candidates surely know that any road to the White House is paved with status updates and tweets.
And if we look at Facebook data alone, President Obama is absolutely trouncing Romney.
Social media analytics company Socialbakers looked at the two candidates and how they are performing on the world's leading social media site, and it appears that Obama is making a bigger impact - and it's not even close.
In the month of May, Obama saw 845,000 people "talking about" him, a metric that Facebook has just started displaying next to "likes" on pages. By comparison, Mitt Romney's "talking about" number was only 173,000.
Obama also dwarfed Romney in new "likes," garnering 620,000 in the month as opposed to 136,000 for the challenger. As they stand, Obama has just over 27 million likes and Romney is approaching 2 million.
In a metric called Viral Reach, Romney closes the gap just a little bit - 134 million to Obama's 179 million. Viral Reach equals the total number of "likes" and comments multiplied by the average number of friends held by each Facebook users, which is about 140.
"We've been tracking all the Republican candidates' Facebook activities since election season kicked into full swing back in December," said Socialbakers CEO Jan Rezab. "So far, those with the highest level of engagement have emerged as the frontrunners throughout the campaign, with Romney consistently leading the pack for the GOP. But with this new head-to-head comparison of the final two, it's quite clear that Obama blows Romney out of the water. It will be interesting to see how that correlates to the election results in November."
Of course, Facebook likes don't necessarily equal popularity. Mitigating factors include the social media savvy of each candidate's supporter base and their current level of notoriety. Obama is the current President of the United States and all, while Romney is only a candidate. But social factors, especially Facebook, can be a predictor of a candidate's ability to connect to a particular type of voter. And remember, it was Mitt Romney, as the candidate with the largest Facebook presence, that won the GOP primary.
While building likes and engaging users to discuss you on the site is important, Socialbakers argues that the type of content shared by each candidate is important.
Aside from sheer numbers, Socialbakers' analysis also uncovers a fascinating trend in the type of content that spurs fans to take action—to like, share and comment on a candidate's posts. It seems Facebook users were far more engaged with positive posts highlighting successes, accomplishments or even revealing a glimpse of the candidates' private lives than they were the standard campaign rhetoric.
The trick to properly executing a social media campaign may just be in humanizing the candidate. Voters are indeed inundated with the candidates' position of the issues as well as attack ads via traditional media - maybe they come to Facebook and Twitter to see the personal side of the men who could be President for the next four years.
Either way, one thing is for certain: Presidential candidates from here on out will never be able to take their social media presence lightly. Check out Socialbakers' full infographic on the aftermath of the GOP campaign and the heads-up race below: