Or do they?
Want a clear sign that that the presidential campaign is heating up? Simple! Look at the way the Republicans are trying to spin their social media statistics.
There is no doubt that both campaigns are nervously working their numbers on Facebook and Twitter, looking for every excuse to "trend positive." But the whole process is generating more heat than light, if you ask me.
Recently, there was a story on Mashable which sourced material on both Facebook and Socialbakers.com (a social media analytics firm). Supposedly, there was data from Facebook that purported to show that Mitt Romney's numbers were on the upswing and that Obama's numbers were flat-lining. Romney was supposed to have gained 10.8 percent more fans between June 11 and June 17 while Obama's numbers went up only 1.7 percent.
The headline: "Romney Gains Speed on Facebook." Um, OK. Whatever.
By the numbers, this was supposed to be pretty impressive stuff. The Romney campaign sounded the drumbeat right away, implying that the President's popularity was done for -- at least in his ability to attract new blood. The trending lines were looking pretty poor for incumbent Obama, as well.
Of course, I decided not to write an obituary just yet. When I saw these numbers, I immediately thought of Mark Twain, who once said: "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics." He meant that facts are one thing, but their interpretation can be quite another.
In truth, Romney did indeed pick up 10.8 percent more fans -- 71,000 of them. But Obama increased by 77,000 fans. His bump of a mere 1.7 percent was due to the fact that his Facebook profile had roughly 27 million fans while Romney's had only 1.9 million.
So in its haste to create buzz and to trend positive, the Romney campaign conveniently forgot about the bigger picture. Romney still must pick up roughly 25 million more fans in order to be on a par with Barack Obama. And that seems highly unlikely.
But nothing to date has answered a simple question: how many of Obama's fans on Facebook are actually registered voters? How many have voting histories? And what is the measure of their true commitment?
This seems to be something that the conventional electoral polls -- Harris, Zogby, Rasmussen, Mason-Dixon and the like -- are overlooking. I wonder if they are still fixated with data collection and psychographics that are relics of the 20th century: whether someone is a man or woman, Republican or Democrat, homeowner or renter, with the added curiosities of asking whether we are NASCAR fans, gun owners, or regular churchgoers. They should be asking whether we have profiles on Facebook and how often we post items on our walls (or someone else's).
This sort of data would tell us more about the modern electorate than anything that we have yet seen, in my opinion. It would appear to me that there is a very big difference between clicking a "like" on Facebook from the safety and convenience of one's computer or smart phone and getting oneself down to the local school or firehouse to stand in line and get into a voting booth. How does one measure commitment?
You'd think by now that they'd have an app for that.
Then again, think about this statistically unlikely, and theoretically implausible, scenario: that Mitt Romney's 1.9 million "likes" are more committed to showing up at the polls than all but 2 million who are committed (in a Facebook sense) to Barack Obama. That is how 1.9 million could beat 27 million in a race of numbers.
No, it won't happen. But I wish that I had a poll or a data set that would tell me otherwise -- for certain.
Yaverbaum's Social Media Scorecard as it stands today:
We last reported this scorecard on June 2nd, so all data from last month use this date as a reference.
Obama continues numerical dominance of social media, though it must be pointed out that Romney actually has picked up roughly 50,000 more 'likes' than Obama in raw numbers, not just percentages, over the past three weeks. This is the data set that the Republicans should have grabbed for "proof" that their candidate is trending upwards. Still, Obama sits on top of a very high hill with more than 27 million devotees. That's a pretty steep hill. Some may attempt to call it a trend, but I suspect that it is an indication that the last of the stragglers from the other campaigns have finally determined that resistance is futile. Can Romney sustain these numbers? I really doubt it.
Obama's numbers on Twitter are a different story, where he remains a juggernaut. He picked up roughly 9x more followers than his opponent and still has 2½x more followers.
Both Klout scores remain stuck in neutral -- a sign perhaps that neither campaign is getting the desired reach or influence out of their campaigns. What will they do to solve this dilemma? Stay tuned.
FB Likes: 27,088,722 likes • (net + 168,079);
Twitter Followers: 16,823,405 (net + 705,606)
Klout Score: 94 (net 0)
FB Likes: 2,020,361 likes • (net + 217,890)
Twitter Followers: 572,345 (net + 46,021)
Klout Score: 84 (net 0)