February 28, 2012

Social Media, Politics, and Marketing

Ad Age had a very interesting piece on the effect of social media on politics. The conclusion they reached was that social media has not had nearly the impact claimed on politics in the US.

According to Ad Age...
"...while it is tempting to believe that the size of a candidate's online fan-base is significantly helpful in getting elected, the numbers just don't add up."
Some examples:
  • In 2010, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid ran against Tea Party favorite Sharron Angle for a senate seat in Nevada. Angle had seven times the number of Facebook followers. Reid won easily. 
  • In the Republican primary race, Ron Paul has six times as many Facebook followers as Rick Santorum, but Santorum is charging and Paul is going nowhere.
  • Mitt Romney has a stronger social media presence than either Santorum or Paul yet he has lost the last three primaries.
  • According to Chuck Todd and Sheldon Gawiser who wrote "How Barack Obama Won," the often ballyhooed young social-media recruits credited with carrying him to the White House had little to no effect on the election. In fact, the 2008 election was won "by galvanizing an older population of Democrats and independents, many of whom had never used social media." 
According to Ad Age, the reason for this is "People... are far more responsive to personal messages and face-to-face peer pressure" than they are to the ravings of online maniacs.

Which is another way of saying what we've been saying here for years. "Peer-to-peer" social media recommendations are not the equivalent of word-of-mouth recommendations, are not nearly as powerful, and contrary to the assertions of social media hustlers, have not nearly the marketing value.

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