In Facebook And Twitter On Election Night, A Study Of Contrasts

Photo: Barack Obama

In declaring victory in yesterday’s election, President Barack Obama just gave us a fascinating case study in how Twitter and Facebook are doing.As the networks called the election in his favour, his social media operatives posted identical messages at virtually the same time to Facebook and Twitter: the words “Four more years” and a photo of Obama embracing his wife, Michelle.

Both postings set all-time records on both Twitter and Facebook. Roughly 13 hours after the photo went up, here are the numbers.

On Twitter:

  • 238,802 favourites

On Facebook:


The election also drew a large volume of traffic, though not the record-breaking levels seen for some worldwide events. Twitter said that the news that Obama had won the election generated 327,453 tweets per minute at its peak. Facebook, using an internal analytical tool called Talk Meter, assigned Election Day chatter a score of 9.27 on a 10 point scale, a record for US users this year.

Here’s an anecdotal observation about those numbers: While Facebook is clearly generating more activity—about four times as much, if you use Obama’s update as a point of comparison—Twitter feels busier on news events like this.

Why is that? A lot of it has to do with the services’ design. Twitter is geared around real-time information. Facebook shows users only a small slice of activity across its network, filtered according to friends and pages and algorithmically presented.

Facebook experimented with a more real-time, Twitter-like look for its News Feed a few years ago, and users strongly rejected it. Since then, Facebook has tended to show less rather than more, guarding against spamminess and emphasising relevance. On an everyday basis, that works great. But on big news events, it can give Facebook a muted feel.

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