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The Social Election: Why the Candidates Just Don’t Get It
By: Kimberly Shrack
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Let me start out by saying that I have little to no interest in politics. Yes, I have an interest in how we are governed and the rights our people are or should be afforded, but when it comes to political debates and bumper stickers, I’ll pass. If you try to engage me in a political discussion, I’ll probably ask if you saw last night’s episode of Weeds (that was crazy, right?!). Point is, it’s not generally a topic that piques my interest. But when I saw this new Pew study about how the presidential candidates are using social media in their respective campaigns… well, this I can’t resist.
 
Unsurprisingly, Obama owns Romney when it comes to the sheer frequency of posts. In the time frame studied, the Obama campaign posted nearly four times as much content as the Romney campaign on nearly twice as many platforms. Where he really dominates is Twitter, with 404 posts during the study’s time frame, compared to Romney’s 16. Of the platforms examined, the only area Romney trumps Obama is on Facebook, where he had a handful more posts. But I don't think those few extra posts mattered much — Obama's content engendered a hell of a lot more response; nearly twice as much as Romney's. But, as any good PR person knows, more doesn't necessarily mean better. The study doesn't go into the sentiment of the responses, but I think it's safe to say it's probably a mixed bag of positive reinforcement, genuine concerns and lunatics with a keyboard.
 
Again, none of this is too surprising. But, frankly, this is: both candidates seem to have forgotten the “social” part of social media, all but ignoring comments from anyone outside the campaign. Let’s take Twitter, for example. Of Obama’s 404 tweets, only 3% were sharing citizen posts. Yikes. And Romney, you’re not off the hook, either — he shared just one non-campaigner post, and it was from his son.
 
This gets a big face palm. I just don’t get it. As a presidential candidate, you are in the business of connecting with people. That’s what campaigning is all about. In the old days, that meant hitting the pavement, traveling the country and shaking hands with as many people as you can. Okay, so it still does — but now, we also have social media, which allows you to be everywhere all at once. You can engage people across the country, connect with “real Americans,” answer their questions, address their concerns, in a massive sharable, public forum — and you choose not to do this? Now I’m not suggesting you retweet or respond to every single post — but come on, guys. You (or should I say your staff) can do better than 3%.
 
But even more mind-boggling than the low response rate is the content. During the time period studied, a solid majority of the content being posted by candidates was on the economy. Obviously, Obama and Romney have their own perspectives on how the economy should be dealt with (groan, I’m boring myself), and even though they are talking about it differently, it's clear it’s what they want to talk about.
 
But that is not what the people want to talk about. During the time frame studied, Obama’s posts on the economy generated 361 shares. Not bad. But pretty minimal compared to his immigration posts, which garnered more than four times that reaction. Or his posts on veteran’s or women’s issues, which resulted in three times the response. Similarly, Romney is also focusing heavily on the economy, even though his posts about healthcare reform and veteran's issues resulted in twice as much feedback.
 
As I read through this study, one question kept running through my head: “WHY, GOD, WHY?” This makes no sense. Zero. The American people want to talk about social issues like immigration, veteran's and women's issues, and health care. This isn’t a televised debate. You don’t have to answer the questions on the prompter. So why is the economy the focus when that’s clearly not the most important issue to this particular audience? Remember how I said I respond to people’s questions about politics with an update on the TV I have been watching? This is the same thing, only on a much larger scale.
 
So guys, let’s get it together. Don’t forget that these social media users are also voters. It’s about time you start engaging them. If Snooki and Kim Kardashian can do it, you can, too.


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About the Author
Kimberly Shrack is a PR pro based in Philadelphia, specializing in writing and content development. She has worked in communication for a variety of industries including technology, travel, art, and healthcare. Follow her on Twitter at @kjshrack.
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