The Good, The Bad and The Ugly: Presidential Candidates on Social Media

Politicians may have been slow to embrace social media, but a strong social media presence has quickly become a necessity for any major campaign. Just like any other brand, candidates are susceptible to the pitfalls that exist within the digital world.

So who’s doing it right and who’s coming up short? Let’s take a look.

The Good:

President Barack Obama has a social media presence that is unrivaled by any other politician. From 26 million Facebook fans to 16 million Twitter followers to 199,000 YouTube subscribers and even 17,800 Pinterest followers, the POTUS has got his social media under control. His networks are highly engaged, and he knows how to leverage them for his benefit. He has even joined forces with the likes of George Clooney and Sarah Jessica Parker, further expanding his reach.

Mitt Romney’s Facebook fan base of 1.8 million may only represent a fraction of Obama’s, but he has found success in this social media endeavor. He is employing apps well, pinning posts and creating milestones as his campaign continues to grow nationwide. He’s receiving great engagement from his social networks and is thriving in the digital space.

The Bad:

Rick Perry made quite a name for himself on social media, but not always for the best reasons. His “Strong” advertisement has over 8 million YouTube views, nearly 790,000 dislikes and 26,000 likes. To put that into context, this ad has received more dislikes than Rebecca Black’s “Friday.” With fewer than 200,000 fans and 2,000 people talking about this, Perry’s Facebook page is lackluster. He does generate engagement on Twitter, but hasn’t fully embraced basic features such as @mentions and hashtags.

One failure by Obama’s social media team was his campaign to pressure Congress to raise the debt ceiling last summer. For one day, Obama’s team took to Twitter, tweeting at each Republican member of Congress and urging him or her to compromise in reaching a bipartisan solution to the debt crisis. The 4-hour, 118-tweet barrage cost Obama 14,000 Twitter followers. Many were frustrated that @BarackObama was clogging up their timelines with spammy tweets. Obama learned that, like anything, there is value in moderation.

The Ugly:

When it comes to social media, there is almost nothing more taboo than buying fans. Unfortunately, Newt Gingrich didn’t get the memo and committed this cardinal sin. In addition to making the user look desperate, fake fans do nothing to boost credibility or increase engagement, as Mr. Gingrich learned.

I wish I could tell you that Gingrich buying fans is the worst transgression on social media . But no. Mitt Romney takes the cake for biggest flub. For Pete’s sake, people, he misspelled America in his new iPhone app! AMERICA! Team Romney quickly fixed the error, but as you can imagine, social media is still making him pay. In the week since the app went live, there were over 20,000 tweets using #Amercia, including this one from @reierje: “Okay, it’s #offical. I’m giving you all a #sneakpeak: I’m voting for Mitt Romeny for Prescient of the Uneducated Steaks of #Amercia.”

So there you have it. The good, bad and ugly of presidential candidates on social media. What can we learn from all of this? There are models for how to do it well. Follow them. Find a balance because over- or under-using social media is problematic. And if you’re going to spend your social media budget on something, invest in a proofreader as opposed to a horde of fake fans.

Worried that your social media efforts would fall in the “bad” or “ugly” categories? Give our Digital Division Director a call at 919-858-6914 or shoot us an email. We’d love to have a conversation with you about how to make the most of your social media presence.

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