And the Winner is Obama, Romney, or...Twitter?
Pop Quiz: Did you watch either the Republican or Democratic National Conventions these past two weeks? And if so, what were you doing with your hands at the time?
Answer: Get your mind out of the gutter. That wasn't a dirty question. Based upon initial results published today, chances are that you were tweeting (and if you were doing something else, keep that to yourself - this is a family-friendly blog!. Well, not always. But I digress...).
President Obama's speech at the Democratic National Convention last night set a record as the biggest political moment ever on Twitter. The president's speech generated 52,756 tweets PER MINUTE just as it ended, and the convention's 4 million tweet mark for the day yesterday equalled the Republican National Convention's entire tweet tally for the full week. Initial estimates for total tweets about the Democratic convention are hovering at the 9.5 million mark, which is another record for political events.
While this is remarkable in and of itself, the magnitude of the social media shift takes on even greater import when you compare similar totals for the 2008 election conventions. In 2008, the combined total number of tweets generated by both the Republican and Democratic conventions was 365,000. The combined total for this year is reaching nearly 15 million. You do the math. (And that isn't just a figure of speech. Even though I'm Asian, I break another stereotype. I suck at math. So you do it for me.)
The previous record for political tweets was Mitt Romney's acceptance speech in Tampa last week, which drew 14,300 tweets per minute. And Mr. Romney's speech in turn eclipsed the former tweeting record set by - you guessed it - Mr. Obama, during his State of the Union speech in January, which drew about 14,100 tweets per minute (and shouldn't that be a new term of art, "TPM", sort of like "RPM" in your car?).
The Obama camp has always been highly social media savvy, and last night's speech was no exception. The speech appeared to be crafted in 7-minute "arcs," which are perfectly suited for youTube segmentation and viral promotion. And the Obama campaign's extensive use of Twitter as an outreach tool appears to be working - as of today, the Twitter Political Index, which measures how tweeters feel about a candidate on a scale of 1-100, has Mr. Obama up 2 points to a score of 52, while Mr. Romney sits at a score of 9.
But as is true of all things in life, political and otherwise, don't leave trust to just one source. NBCPolitics.com has completed a computer analysis of 2 million campaign-related Twitter and Facebook posts, in which Mr.Romney leads Mr. Obama by 2 points in political commentary and support online.
Further analysis makes a bit more sense of these differing results - and underscores long-held trends within both parties. Mr. Romney scores substantially higher in the over-55 demographic, which has become a core mainstay of Facebook users, while Mr. Obama strongly outperforms Mr. Romney in Twitter's younger core age cohort.
And as important as social media is becoming in the political landscape, we must remember that social media is in the end just that - social media. It isn't a voting booth, and there is no guarantee that online support translates into votes. Just ask Howard Dean, who raised more money online than anyone else in his Presidential bid - and then floundered in the primaries at the ballot box.
Similarly, while social media becomes more of a dominant force in many of our daily lives, we can't forget that television is still the most dominant force in political outreach and messaging. Both conventions brought in 30 million viewers on the Romney and Obama speech nights - which not only eclipsed the social media traffic, but also (last night) eclipsed the simultaneously broadcast football game, which garnered 20 million viewers.
So what do we take from all this? Social media is becoming a major force in our political landscape. And every budding politico and policy wonk needs to understand its power and its pull. But it's not the only game in town, and we can't banish the good old trusty television set in the living room to the pasture quite yet. And with that mixed metaphor, I'm off to send out another tweet...