Can Social Media Predict Elections?

Anthony Wiener aside, politicians are in love with Twitter. But will large social media presences translate into votes?

If it does, the Republican Party might tap Sarah Palin as its standard bearer, according to a study of social media and politics. The study, done by Washington Post-owned Facebook shop SocialCode, found Palin as the GOP’s most marketing-adept and popular candidate among likely voters in Iowa and New Hampshire. Although the study has raised some hackles about the relevance of social media popularity to real-world political campaigns, the company contends that Facebook’s potential as pool of rich insights has been underestimated.

“Facebook has only been used as a tool on the surface of consumer data,” said Addie Connor, vp of advertising for SocialCode.”We took a data-driven, very quantitative approach to Facebook’s enormous potential as a marketing tool.” Facebook is a critical marketing tool, Connor believes, and it is one of the best ways of getting instant feedback on the efficacy of brand or campaign messaging.
SocialCode analyzes Facebook data and creates customized marketing programs for clients with a focus on direct-message relevancy.
“SocialCode has built a higher level of sophistication into their analytics than what I’ve seen on the market before,” said Vijay Ravindram, chief digital officer of The Washington Post.
SocialCode’s most recent study of Facebook users in Iowa and New Hampshire centered on using randomized messages to judge relative response rates to various aspects of political campaign messaging. This isn’t a new method of using Facebook to target likely voters, but SocialCode introduced less common semantic and trend analysis into their analytics solution which showed exactly which part of the GOPs message was resonating with Facebook users over time.
“We wanted this study to serve as a benchmark to show how Facebook can deliver critical insights in real-time,” said Connor. “You need to not only be able to put out the right message in front of the right audience, but you need to be able to look at information over time as a trend.”
SocialCode found that candidates with a high-profiles, like Sara Palin, had greater success with targeted Facebook messages which mention key issues such as “values” and “the economy” regardless of their status in offline polls of likely voters. The use of consumer insights might help to add depth to ‘like’ analysis, but the company must still find a way to translate popularity on Facebook into real-word value.
“Using our data, we enable a candidate to tailor their message at points where they are seeing improvement in response rates, we allow candidates to be proactive, instead of reactive,” said Connor. “There is the potential to change the game, using real-time data.”
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