The blogosphere truly became a force in 2004; ActBlue became a major online fundraising (and organizing) tool in 2006; Obama campaign's use of the internet for organizing gained widespread attention in 2008. Democrats clearly did better at campaigning, organizing, and fundraising online. Then in 2010, Scott Brown kicked Martha Coakley's ass across the entire internet. Suddenly the story became "can Democrats catch up online?"
That's a stupid question, because one race in which an effective candidate out-organizes a deeply flawed and inept candidate does not partywide dominance make. But it suggests we absolutely should be paying attention to how campaigns are doing at online organizing.
This essay marks the beginning of an occasional series examining just that. Today, I'm focusing on some races for open Senate seats, two Republican, two Democratic. I'm also focusing on Twitter and Facebook. There are many more races to cover and many more forms of online media to look at -- how many times have their YouTube videos been viewed? Are they engaging with the blogosphere? What are their online ad buys like? Online fundraising, texting...there's a wealth of media to check out. But Twitter and Facebook are public metrics that are readily comparable.
We'll expect candidates to have more Facebook fans than followers on Twitter, because there are many more people on Facebook. But advertising on Facebook can rack up large numbers of fans relatively quickly, so a case where a candidate's Facebook-to-Twitter ratio seems out of the ordinary may suggest that the campaign has been advertising heavily on Facebook. (Which may be a good idea, mind you.) Also worth noting, some Republican candidates (including Peter Schiff in today's group) have created splash pages on Facebook -- when you search for them and initially go to the page, instead of seeing a normal Facebook wall there's...a splash page -- big graphic, sign-up, etc. I haven't yet found any Democrats who are doing that.
So, without further ado, a basic look at the Senate races in Connecticut, Illinois, New Hampshire, and Ohio. In order to be able to compare across states, I've divided the number of followers a candidate has on each platform by the number of congressional districts in their state. And while I didn't look up numbers for every race on the same day (so some may be as much as a week old), the numbers for each candidate in a given race were compiled within minutes of each other.
Connecticut has five districts:
Democratic candidate (and current attorney general) Richard Blumenthal's Facebook page has 15,215 fans. That's 3,043 per district. His Twitter account, DickBlumenthal, has 645 followers (129 per district).
Blumenthal has three Republican opponents. Linda McMahon's Facebook page has 10,097 fans (2,019.4 per district). On Twitter, her LindaforSenate account has 5,386 followers (1,077.2 per district). Rob Simmons' Facebook page has 2,867 fans (573.4 per district), while his RobSimmons Twitter account has 2,065 followers (413 per district). Trailing in the polls but not on Facebook, Peter Schiff's Facebook page has 32,807 fans -- a whopping 6,561.4 per district. On Twitter, his SchiffforSenate account has 4,019 followers (803.8 per district). Schiff has obviously put some money into his Facebook page. As previously noted, a search for his page leads not to a traditional Facebook wall but to a splash page built into Facebook. And his extraordinary number of fans suggests that he's been doing advertising.
Verdict: Blumenthal holds his own on Facebook, but lags the Republicans on Twitter.
Illinois has 19 districts:
State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias' Facebook page has 8,651 fans -- 455.3 per district. He has two Twitter accounts. Seemingly Giannoulias is his own account, with 1,018 followers (53.6 per district), while Alexi4Illinois is a campaign account used by staff, with 1,875 followers (98.7 per district).
Verdict: It is difficult to know how to weigh Giannoulias' followers on Twitter, given the two accounts -- but Kirk gets a clear victory, since he has more followers on Twitter than the two Giannoulias accounts combined. He also gets a solid, though not dominating win on Facebook.
New Hampshire has two districts:
Republican frontrunner (and former attorney general) Kelly Ayotte's Facebook page has 2,258 fans (1,129 per district). Her Ayotte2010 Twitter account has 860 followers (430 per district). Wealthy businessman Bill Binnie's Facebook page has 680 fans (340 per district). His Binnie2010 Twitter account has 435 followers (217.5 per district). And trailing the pack, Ovide Lamontagne's Facebook page has 957 fans (478.5 per district), while his Ovidein2010 Twitter account has 777 followers (388.5 per district).
Verdict: Hodes has a very narrow lead on Facebook and a wider one on Twitter.
Ohio has 18 districts:
Democratic Lieutenant Governor Lee Fisher's Facebook page has 4,048 fans (224.9 per district), while his FisherforOhio Twitter account has 1,200 followers (66.67 per district). By contrast, Republican Rob Portman's Facebook page has 11,147 fans (619.3 per district) and his RobPortman Twitter account has 1,855 followers (103.1 per district).
Verdict: Fisher trails Portman badly on both Twitter and Facebook.
Final thoughts: It's clear that Republicans don't own social media. It's a pretty even fight, by the numbers. But there's a lot more to be said, both about other media (as discussed above) and about how the campaigns are using these platforms to communicate and organize. Please chime in in the comments with observations about that. And I'd love to hear what kind of online ads you're seeing if you live in an area with a competitive race. Tell us in the comments, or email me at Laura (dot) DK (dot) Adinfo (at) gmail (dot) com. I'll start compiling impressions about that.