October 08, 2012, 9:43 PM — President Barack Obama is more savvy about using social networks during the presidential campaign than his Republican opponent Gov.Mitt Romney.
That's the take of 64% of the 2,500 American Internet users polled in a Google survey on Sept. 21, while 35.8% of those polled said they thought Romney was doing a better job with social media.
"If you were to look at just this survey and make a call about which candidate has more momentum, synergy and support, Obama would appear the winner, hands down," said Glenn Livingston, CEO of market research firm UnlimitedTrafficMachine.com, which conducted the survey for Google. "It's really been a fun and highly revealing experiment."
The fact that candidates are using social media and that voters are using social networks to get information and express their opinions isn't new. Social networks als played a role in the 2008 presidential campaign. However, that usage has exploded in the 2012 election.
Analysts point out that this activity isn't surprising Facebook, for example, which had 100 million monthly users in 2008 and has more than 1 billion users today. With all those people using Facebook, using the site to reach voters has become another component of a political campaign.
Facebook isn't the only social network playing a part in the election process.
During last week's first presidential debate, Twitter lit up with activity. The debate generated 10.3 million tweets in 90 minutes, making it the most tweeted about event in U.S. political history.
it goes to show that being savvy about social networking can give a candidate an advantage in the campaign, especially among younger voters.
"I think it's very important in that [social media] gets to a younger, broader audience," said Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with ZK Research. "From what I've seen, Obama just uses social media really well." For example, Obama continually updates his followers on Facebook and Twitter, more than Romney does, Kerravala said.
Kerravala also noted that social networking, when done well, can motivate voters, particularly young voters, to go to the polls on Election Day. "They're reaching a younger demographic that might not normally vote," he said. "I think people are more likely to get involved because they can weigh in and give their opinion because of social media."
The Google survey noted that people of different ages and from different areas had different takes on how the candidates are handling social media.
For instance, 38% of people living in suburban areas picked Romney over Obama, while for urban dwellers, that figure fell to 31%.
Younger people largely were less likely to pick Romney. According to Google, 27.3% of those between 18 and 24 picked Romney over Obama.
Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, on Google+ or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read more about social media in Computerworld's Social Media Topic Center.