Many commentators are calling the 2012 US election the ‘Twitter Election’ - and when you look at the numbers, it’s easy to see why.
On election day 2008, we saw a total of 1.8 million Tweets. Compare this to the 10 million Tweets we saw during the first 90 minute debate earlier this year, and you’ll begin to get a sense of the seismic shift in the scale of US political conversation on Twitter that’s happened over the last four years. In fact, the number of Tweets sent every 48 hours in 2012 is the same as the total number that had ever been sent on Twitter back in 2008.
We wanted to bring UK observers a roundup of the last few months to give you a sense of how voters, commentators and candidates across the pond have been using Twitter in the run up to polling day, as well as a guide to following the election on Twitter as it unfolds this week.
Follow the Election on Twitter
If you’re interested in following the election day conversation, we’ve created an event page at twitter.com/#Election2012. The page curates Tweets from the candidates, their campaign staff, political insiders, news commentators, and government officials. It’s a great place to keep on top of the huge amount of information about the election on Twitter.
Some of the other key accounts you may want to follow include:
Twitter was used extensively during the Political conventions in August and September of this year, kick-starting the campaigns for both the Republicans and the Democrats. The most Retweeted message of the convention season was Barack Obama’s (@BarackObama) response to Clint Eastwood’s “empty chair” speech - which has been shared over 55,000 times:
This seat’s taken. OFA.BO/c2gbfi, twitter.com/BarackObama/st…
— Barack Obama ( @BarackObama) August 31, 2012
Whilst the conventions saw conversation about the election hotting up, it was the presidential debates that gave us the most Tweeted-about event in US political history. During the first Denver debate on October 4 we saw the record 10 million Tweets. As well as live commentary and analysis by voters and commentators, one of the major activities that took place on Twitter during the debates was real-time fact checking of what the candidates said, carried out by non-partisan organisations. Here’s a great example:
Obama says you will get a rebate from insurance cos. But most rebates will go to employers, not individuals. ow.ly/ecO3a #debate
— Fact Check ( @factcheckdotorg) October 4, 2012
Every debate since has seen a steady stream of commentary on Twitter, with the final debate on October 22 netting 6.5 million Tweets.
The Twitter Political Index
Whilst big events like the conventions and debates create spikes in conversation, the Twitter Political Index has been tracking political sentiment towards the two candidates on Twitter on a daily basis.
The service has been used by political commentators and observers to analyse the US electorate’s feelings about the Obama and Romney campaigns. For example, we can see that Romney’s score increased after announcing Rep. Paul Ryan (@RepPaulRyan) as his running mate, while sentiment increased in positivity for Obama after the final head-to-head debate.
In recent weeks we have been able to break down our analysis by state to give more detailed insight into how different areas of the country and reacting to the political campaigns. At https://election.twitter.com/map/, you can explore the political engagement map for yourself. It’s fully interactive so that you can analyse the Tweets, topics, and states that most interest you.
Candidates have been using Twitter as a way to share their messages organically with their constituents for some time, but we have also seen political campaigns using the platform’s Promoted Products effectively as a way to join in the real-time conversations and amplify their messages in authentic and engaging ways.
Rather than crafting TV commercials or billboards, campaigners have turned their hand to crafting messages that deliver their key election pledges in 140 characters or less.
Whether it was Mitt Romney’s campaign buying the first ever Promoted Trend by a Presidential candidate, or Public Broadcasting System (@PBS) using Promoted Tweets to engage with consumers searching for the term ‘Big Bird’ (after the now-famous comments during the first Presidential debate) - both political and non-political marketers have moved to Twitter to engage in the conversation.
As @stephengmills set out in the Guardian, during the election campaign US politics has shifted ‘from a 24-hour news cycle, to a 140-character one’.
Whether you’re rooting for @MittRomney, @BarackObama, or simply an interested observer, you can follow #Election2012 on Twitter to see the drama unfold this week, 140 characters at a time.