Presidential Social Media Campaigns: Obama Sees 2x More Engagement Than Romney

President Barack ObamaPresident Obama’s campaign has posted nearly four times as much content as challenger Mitt Romney’s campaign, and is active on nearly twice as many platforms, according to new research by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism.

During two weeks in early June, the Obama campaign published 614 posts vs. just 168 for Romney.  Here’s the breakdown over individual platforms:

  • Obama’s campaign averaged 29 tweets per day, vs. just one tweet per day for Romney
  • Obama produced nearly twice as many blog posts on his website
  • Obama posted more than twice as many YouTube videos as the Romney campaign
  • both campaigns averaged two posts per day on Facebook

The study examined the websites of the two campaigns in detail, as well as their postings on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube – and the public reaction to that content.  Over the study period of June 4-17, 2012, Obama’s digital content inspired twice as many shares, views and comments as posts from the Romney campaign.  And this wasn’t just because the Obama campaign was posting more often; Obama’s Facebook and YouTube posts averaged more likes than Romney’s.

On Facebook, posts from Obama’s campaign received more than 1.1 million “likes” over the study period, while Romney campaign posts received only 635,000 “likes.”  The difference was even more pronounced on Twitter, where Obama’s content received over 150,000 re-tweets vs. just 8,600 re-tweets for Romney’s posts.

Presidential candidate Mitt RomneyWhat are the candidates posting about?

  • themselves:  Obama posts about himself 55% of the time, Romney 52% of the time
  • each other: over one-third of the Romney campaign’s online posts centered on Obama (criticizing his actions or policy), while 14% of Obama campaign posts focused on Romney
  • the economy: 19% of the Obama’s campaign posts mentioned the economy (topics include jobs, investing in the middle class) vs. 24% of Romney’s posts (focusing largely on jobs)

However, voters were less likely to engage with posts about the economy.  Obama’s posts about the economy averaged 361 shares or retweets per post; but his posts about immigration generated 4X that reaction, and posts about women’s and veterans’ issues generated 3X that number.  Romney’s messages about the economy received only around half the average engagement for his posts about healthcare and veterans.

Most surprising, however, is that neither candidate chose to really engage with voters on social media.  Only on rare occasions did the Obama or Romney campaign reply, comment, or re-tweet content from anyone outside the campaign.  Just 3% of Obama’s campaign tweets during the study period were retweets of citizen posts, and Romney’s campaign producted only one retweet, from his son.

Does Obama have an advantage in social media, given his digitally-savvy 2008 campaign and his position as current president?  Of course — and the Romney campaign will have to work hard to catch up.  But for social to really make a difference, both candidates may need to go beyond just “treating social as a broadcast medium” (AdAge) and start engaging with their constituents more.

What do you think?