When will Republicans pay attention to ‘social media precincts?’

It’s Super Tuesday and many pundits are saying that Mitt Romney could achieve true frontrunner status Tuesday night when the votes are all counted across the 10 states holding primaries and caucuses.  I chuckle when I hear numerous pundits debate the battles and challenges that candidates have relative to battleground states like Ohio, Georgia and Tennessee. 

All candidates have spent tremendous blocks of time on the ground crossing our country in the last couple of weeks trying to do what they can to secure momentum in one state or another through a dizzying array of stump speeches, radio appearances and spot television campaigns.  What boggles my mind is that the biggest prize on Super Tuesday and every other Tuesday from now to Election Day is the growing constituency whose state is the social media precincts. For the life of me, I can’t understand why  none of the Republican candidates is paying any attention to this massive group of voters online.  

With eight months to go until Voting Day, I keep receiving comments from all kinds of groups that a new and compelling strategy is forthcoming. They say “Wait and see. We are going to surprise everyone with our tactics and methods.” Having been in marketing my entire life I can tell you that I haven’t ever seen a strategy that can take down a brand that is this far ahead with only eight months to go until all the votes are counted. Any of you folks who are waiting to hatch your “killer strategy” had better get moving  yesterday to have any impact on the election in November.

Just take a look at what has happened this week …

Facebook Friends

Mitt Romney – 1,512,755 – up 15,510
Ron Paul – 895,193 – up 12,281
Newt Gingrich – 292,124 – up 3,472
Rick Santorum – 167,207 – up 7,538
President Barack Obama – 25,461,457 – up 78,638

•    Mitt Romney – While Romney continues to grow in Friends on Facebook, it appears that his team is in mental lockdown. The only thing that has changed on his page this week is that they have taken down his “thirty second video spot showcase” and replaced it with a series of posts from the candidate that resemble the basic planks of his stump speeches. Visitors like me continue to ask the nagging question: where’s the beef? It’s OK to slam the Obama, but that horse is going to get tired unless Romney starts showing his cards on the key issues and how he will change America.

•    Ron Paul – While Ron Paul doesn’t get the glamour shots that a Rick Santorum does, his machine continues to hum as he builds his base online. Here again is a candidate that has a loyal following but is doing little or no imaginative and/or engaging marketing within the social sphere.  This is another case of a candidate who seems to “get it” from the interactive opportunity standpoint, but doesn’t have the social media chops within his campaign team to knock it out of the park.

•    Newt Gingrich – Newt continues to fade badly despite all of the media attention that he is somehow going to change the game on Super Tuesday. It’s an incredible power the broadcast television has.  They can take a relative unknown and by glitz and marketing build that lowly personage into the next American Idol. Newt benefits from the media attention and spotlight. Online he isn’t growing nearly as fast as he needs to be in order to compete for the White House against the Obama Juggernaut.

•    Rick Santorum – The Santorum surge looks to be a two-week phenomenon. Rick’s Facebook page hasn’t moved an inch since he posted his recruiting poster.  As such, this week’s growth places him at the bottom of the group of four in friends. While the media loves covering Santorum and propping him up as a viable combatant to Mitt Romney; within the social media world Santorum is an also-ran. You can’t win anything from fourth place.

Twitter Followers

Newt Gingrich – 1,444,594 – up 1,870
Ron Paul – 392,427 – up 5,007
Mitt Romney – 362,291 – up 10,622
Rick Santorum – 155,018  – up 7,956
President Barack Obama – 12,851,171 – up 106,211

•    Newt is Twitter Leader – Gingrich got out early in primary season and built his Twitter base but more recently has stumbled a fair bit and it shows in his anemic growth in recent weeks. The message is still strong from the candidate’s viewpoint but the following is no longer as excited and engaged as it was in the early days.  On Reality Wednesday Newt’s power may come from who he backs going forward.

•     Paul holds on to Second Place – While Dr. Paul continues to be passionate in his posts, he too is fading badly in recent weeks as it appears that Tweet messaging isn’t hitting the mark. All candidates seem to be suffering from message paralysis.  Leveraging social media is all about keeping fresh and exciting as the months go by. Paul’s message is consistent but growing stale.

•    Romney has Best Week – With the Santorum surge behind him, Mitt bested the rest of the field in growth this week on Twitter.  He continues to gain momentum on Twitter by being a bit more topical in his posts. He is starting to look more like a frontrunner here as well.

•    Santorum Swoon. – Despite all of the media attention, the Santorum camp has had their moment in the spotlight and it doesn’t appear that the movement of the last two weeks is sustaining itself online. Rick has returned to the modest growth rates both on Twitter and Facebook.  My thought is that Santorum was outgunned in terms of broadcast media dollars and would have been advised to spend some of those dollars fueling a groundswell online. It didn’t happen. He remains locked in fourth place here as well.

After weeks of explosive growth for President Obama on Facebook, the President had his first off week. For the first time in our tracking, the President is under 100K weekly growth rate in Facebook friends. Likewise within the Twitter landscape his rate of growth has slowed dramatically. Not that anyone in the Obama camp is worried right now.  President Obama has a Facebook friend base that is 17 times greater than Mitt Romney. On Twitter Obama has a Twitter follower base that is 35 times greater than the Republican frontrunner.  In fact, the President’s position on Twitter is 5.5 times greater than the entire Republican field combined. On Facebook the story is even more compelling; Obama’s friend base is 8.8 times greater than the Republican field.

How is he doing this?  Once again the Obama team is a group of highly trained marketing professionals. Let me remind you that President Obama has yet to run anything close to a significant television effort. All of this success has come from leveraging the power of the interactive toolkit within the social media universe.  These guys are well schooled in the state of the art in interactive marketing.  Here is just one example. Take a look at Barack Obama’s Facebook page. You will see a series of pages that Obama likes.

The president’s team has created a new “Obama for America “page for each of the 50 states.  This is brilliant marketing.  Each of these pages has been integrated with uStream so that the President can literally address each state individually via Facebook.  Talk about leveraging the power of the medium.

How about the ploy on the page that features “everyday” citizens posting videos and photos that answer the page’s question “What’s the #1 reason you are supporting President Obama?” There is a level of understanding of how to use this platform that makes what the Republicans are doing look childish.

There are some in the marketing world who view the relationship that they have with clients from a vendor v. client basis. These production houses knock out exactly what the client wants irrespective of thoughts around a winning strategy.  They say, “heck, we are just doing what we were told.” They collect their fee and move on to the next job. Then there are folks like me and the professionals that I have always worked with who really care about winning the battle despite how egos and biases get bruised along the way.

What is going on within the Republican camp is a waste of time from my standpoint. It’s bad marketing both from a messaging and execution standpoint. While everyone is focused on counting the votes Tuesday night, it is my hope that someone starts paying attention to the most important of all battleground “states” – the social media precincts.

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