Photo: Gage Skidmore
All we hear about these days is the hiring of staffers to handle Twitter duties, build Facebook pages and utilise the power of the Internet to connect with constituents.But, a look at where campaigns are actually spending their money and a different picture is painted.
A recent story in Adweek gave a sobering report on the fate of digital marketing in the upcoming presidential elections in 2012. Most experts say we will see massive increases in both offline and online marketing efforts by the various campaigns, but traditional network and cable television and radio will continue having the lion’s share of focus to get the word out about candidates and issues. In fact, only about one to two per cent total will be spent on digital marketing by presidential campaigns this cycle, according to the latest research from analyst firm Borrell & Associates.
What gives? Something that has not changed through the various technological leaps and bounds over the past seven decades, is that television and radio is the end-all, be-all venue for getting your political message out, much more important than any million-follower Twitter account or a Facebook page withthousands of “Likes.” You can reach the same number of voters, if not more, through a 30 second spot or a TV segment than you can through Twitter or Facebook. Sure, the latter is a great fundraising tool, but when it comes to moving the needle, or as in the case of politicians, elevating poll numbers, it’s all about broadcast.
As an example, let’s look at the July 20-24 Gallup Poll, which polled announced and likely GOP presidential candidates:
Now let’s compare the mindshare of these candidates on TV/Radio and Twitter, based on captured mentions of their name:
% TV/Radio Mindshare
% Twitter Mindshare
Data provided by Critical Mention and Topsy.com, reflecting 7/27-8/2, 2011.
There are several key points you can make from looking at these numbers, specifically the enormous activity the Ron Paul camp has on Twitter and how it simply does not translate over to poll numbers. On the other hand, the amount of air cover the Texas congressman receives is directly proportional to how he is polling.
The same trend can be traced to the Romney and Bachmann camp and most of the other campaigns, save for Sarah Palin who has not declared for the GOP race as of yet but still manages to get into broadcast news and has overwhelmingly taken to the social media space to get her voice heard. And, Rick Perry, perhaps the candidate with the most momentum at the moment, has capitalised on a number of recent favourable stories to really capture a large percentage of the news cycle mindshare, but not as much in the social media chatter.
It should also be noted that the TV mindshare of each candidate has an underlying effect on the voting public, considering that most broadcast clips find their way to the Web in the form of digitized short-form clips and live streamingservices. Online viewership can easily double the terrestrial audience and is yet another reason why broadcast content can so easily make or break a campaign.
Overall, these numbers show that monitoring the behaviour of candidates on broadcast media more accurately reflects the pulse of the country (or at least the most recent poll data), regardless of how much noise one makes on other communications platforms like Twitter. While the latter will continue to play an integral and growing role in the process – case in point, the first-ever Twitter town hall by President Obama several weeks ago – but for the moment and the foreseeable future, it’s still all about smiling for the cameras and giving the folks at home a thumbs up.
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