Romney all thumbs when it comes to social media
This enables very specific, targeted campaigning to both fundraise and to try to sway voters in what looks to be an extremely tight race. “They’re both engaging in data mining to find out who people are, where they live, and what policies are important to them,” says McMahon. “The trend is, more big data and analytics, more use of social media to get statistical data and do number-crunching.”
Irish politicians are likely to study how the big US presidential campaigns used social media this time around, and bring more elements into their own campaigns in future, Casey says.
McMahon notes that Irish campaigns tend to take two or three years to adopt techniques pioneered in the US – meaning we are likely to see much of what has happened in this election in the next general election here. However, he thinks the high costs associated with sophisticated data mining, and our more stringent data protection laws, mean that particular approach is probably out of reach of Irish campaigns.
But he has been working with some politicians to look at using publicly available Central Statistics Office data to similar effect – if not at the individual voter level, such data gives insight into particular regions and can be co-ordinated to likely issues for those voters.
But the use of social media, because it is relatively new, perhaps can be seen to be more important to a campaign than it actually is. Campaigning is still highly traditional, and candidates must carry out the hard slog of campaigning on the ground, attending rallies and fundraisers. Their campaign teams still pour vast amounts of money into more traditional media, creating television, radio and print ads.
Social media is really just another tool in the campaign tool kit, if an important one, says Casey.
“They’re kind of like an exoskeleton that extends your reach.”
By the numbers: How the candidates stack up on social media
Obama31.5m likes. 2.7m, talking
Romney11.5m likes, 3.1m talking
Obama21.5m followers, 7,500 tweets, following 671,000
Romney1.6m followers, 1,300 tweets, following 274
Romney 68,000 followers
Barack Obama:35,500 followers
Michelle Obama:44,500 followers
Mitt Romney2,100 followers
Ann Romney13,600 followers