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Why Mitt Romney Wants to Be Your Facebook Friend

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MITT ROMNEY NEW HAMPSHIRE
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A post pinned to the top of Mitt Romney's official Facebook page is making a desperate appeal: 'Like and share to help us get to 8 million likes!' it reads.

Perhaps the Republican candidate is feeling envious of the size of the president's Facebook page, which is pushing 30 million fans.

Much scrutiny has been made over the social media leg of this year's presidential campaign, with many analysts placing Obama's online strategy in the same position he's enjoying in the polls: the top.

It's true the president has stronger numbers in terms of fans and followers compared to Romney, but let's be honest: he has the stronger numbers on social media because more people in America know who he is, know what he does and understand what he believes in.

The president wins on numbers online because he wins on numbers in real life. That's less a product of politics and more a product of being in the nation's top job for four years.

Romney, as the challenger, was always going to have to educate people on a personal level, about his background and his beliefs. The chasm between his and Obama's Facebook fans serves to highlight the jump-start an incumbent has on an untested competitor. (Whether or not Romney should have amassed more fans in the lead-up to the election is difficult, at this stage, to judge).

Mitt Romney's campaign digital director Zac Moffatt isn't sweating over the numbers. He said recently he believes the Republican candidate is ahead where it counts -- engagement.

User interaction, or engagement, is important to social media analysts because it provides a way to measure how many people are listening each time a message is posted to a social media site. The metrics vary depending on the tool, but on Facebook, for example, comments, shares and 'Likes' are the virtual equivalent to a campaign rally's cheers and boos.

Moffatt believes -- and there's data to back him up -- that Romney's crowd is cheering louder than Obama's on Facebook and Twitter.

Take a recent 'free bumper sticker' post by Mitt Romney, posted September 24. Some 82,465 fans 'Liked' the post, and 5,974 shared it. A 'free car magnet' post by Barack Obama on the same day generated 95,565 'Likes' and 5,096 shares.

Considering the different audience sizes, and the fact that shares are generally believed to be more valuable than likes due to their ability to reach the message out to non-fans, Romney clearly got more bang for his buck out of the post.

So team Romney may have a point about engagement, but team Obama has a much stronger online presence by way of volume. Using that same rally metaphor, you could say the President's fans are cheering more often, and at a larger number of events.

And there's another way Obama's digital strategy appears to have more muscle: targeting. A close look at the president's official campaign Facebook page reveals clear links (via page Likes) to no less than 23 sub-pages targeting special interest groups, most of them also official.

Among them: Women for Obama, Latinos for Obama, African Americans for Obama and Obama Pride. The page also links to nine state-specific 'Obama for America' accounts -- namely, Michigan, Wisconsin, North Carolina, New Mexico, Nevada, New Hampshire, Florida, Iowa, Ohio and Colorado. Recognize them? They're almost all swing states, and critically important to Obama's re-election campaign.

(It's not that 'Obama for America -- California' doesn't exist -- it does -- but it has not been linked from Obama's primary campaign Facebook page, because someone in the president's digital strategy team has decided it shouldn't be. Less clutter, more focus? Probably).

Obama has re-created on a smaller scale what he is very good at doing on a large one: breaking the message down and making individuals feel like he is speaking directly to them.

Mitt Romney, on the other hand, has just one official page 'Like.' Just one other page on the whole of Facebook that he wants to share with you. That of his running mate, Paul Ryan. And that highlights a major flaw with the Romney digital campaign: Engagement doesn't really matter much, when you're speaking to the converted.

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