05/03/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Could Social Media Have Predicted Texas Primary Outcome?

By now we all know the outcome of the recent Texas GOP gubernatorial primary; and Texas Governor Rick Perry has made it past the first hurdle. But as we look to further political races this year, current shake-ups with New York State Governor seat and any number of future activities in the political arena; might it be time to smart politicos to urgently consider new support tools from social media to not only better refine but possibly forecast constituent sentiment, whether campaign or crisis, so that more refined decisions can be made regarding strategy?

Imagine, if you will, the advent of true social media incorporation into this realm as a souped up version of political analysis -- analysis and strategy on steroids.

With so much as stake, no matter which party, it would seem that the next wave of power strategists and analysts in politics could actually be crowned due to savvy integration of social media temperature readings. To further examine the idea, I recently chatted with Larry Kim founder and Vice-President of Marketing and Product Development of WordStream a keyword research tool company.


Kim looked at the Massachusetts Senate race from a social media perspective in January approximately one week before election day. He determined that the national legacy media had reported that the election was a tight race, but social media showed him the exact opposite. In fact he blogged what turned out to be a very accurate prediction. It's in the early stages but it seems that by looking at "user engagement signals" from number of re-tweets on Twitter to number of views and embeds on YouTube and much, much more; one can actually begin to gauge societal sentiment in a surprisingly accurate manner.

Given enough time and a strong inclination, one can actually gather raw data to determine "noise strength" in the virtual space and therefore real-life constituent passion (or disapproval). The implications of this are enormous. Political parties could, perhaps, even better determine who should be running in the first place from social media buzz which could then be a precursor to fund-raising. Even simple tools such as Twitter Counter can be key for not only looking at number of followers but also how fast they were acquired, which is easily a tell-tale sign for interest level.

And due to all such measurement opportunities, integrating such statistics into polling will also probably become an important factor going forward. Kim noted, "Even though such unorthodox polling methodology is not an exact science; neither is polling via phone, necessarily. And social media stats are free of charge and more immediate; just a couple of benefits over phones."

It is worth mentioning, however, that to be completely comprehensive that one keep in mind that social exchange, particularly within diverse communities, often times incorporates more than just Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and MySpace; thus the full universe needs to be well-understood and managed by people who know what they are doing to make certain enough data is involved and the proper interpretation of that data (which means more than simply utilizing software that can assist with this task).

While the verdict may still be out on such new tools, at the very least; social media analysis deserves discussion. For when newer and tougher times come to any arena, more innovative methods just may need to be utilized to actually engage more organically.