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The state-wide special election to fill the seat vacated by US Senator Edward Kennedy on January 19th has attracted huge national interest because if the Democrats lose this seat, they lose the filibuster-proof margin they currently have in the US Senate.
For the first time for as long I can remember, my very own home state of Massachusetts is today considered a battleground state. Recent polls show the two candidates, State Senator Scott Brown (Republican) and State Attorney General Martha Coakley (Democrat) engaged in a tight race – well within the margin of error.
|Dates||Scott Brown (R)||Martha Coakley (D)|
|Public Policy Polling (PPP)||January 7-9||48%||47%|
|Rasmussen Reports||January 11||47%||49%|
But being a search marketer, I launched my own investigation to see if I could find out more information about the dynamics of this US Senate race based on internet marketing and social media metrics. The findings (based on data collected on January 14) were staggering. The data suggests that conventional pollsters and Washington insiders have it completely wrong – that it won't be a tight race, and that State Senator Scott Brown will win by a landslide.
Social Media Polling Methodology
In this poll I looked at the three major social media venues – Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube – as well as the Alexa Ratings. I used the user engagement metrics that are available from the various sites in order to compare the internet presence of the two candidates.
Both candidates prominently feature a link to their respective YouTube channels on their home pages and syndicate television ads and other content on the site. Scott Brown is showing a 10:1 advantage over Martha Coakley in terms of video content viewership.
|Channel Views||Total Upload Views||Subscribers|
|Martha Coakley on YouTube||8,561||24,014||58|
|Scott Brown on YouTube||26,622||223,678||387|
Facebook fan pages are a great way to connect with people and their networks. Both Scott Brown and Martha Coakley maintain their own Facebook fan pages, which are featured prominently on their homepages. Scott Brown has over a 4:1 edge in terms of number of fans.
|Number of Fans|
|Martha Coakley Fan Page||9,398|
|Scott Brown Fan Page||41,050|
President Obama famously used Twitter to connect to millions of followers. Both Scott Brown and Martha Coakley employ Twitter to communicate with their fans – again, Scott Brown has the edge. He has more followers, appears on more user lists, and generates more buzz overall on Twitter.
|Martha Coakley on Twitter||2674||236||7210|
|Scott Brown on Twitter||7105||404||21500|
Alexa is an internet ratings company – think "Nielson's ratings for the internet". If the point of all the social media efforts on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter is to familiarize people with your brand and drive engagement to your website, and if Scott Brown is doing a better job than Martha Coakley in all the aforementioned social media marketing tactics, you'd expect to see more traffic to his website. And indeed we see that Scott Brown has a tenfold advantage in internet reach (i.e., an estimate of the percentage of internet users that visit their respective websites on any given day). Also noteworthy is rate at which Scott Brown has skyrocketed - in just a week – any conventional pollster will tell you that momentum is everything.
So in summary, Scott Brown is way ahead in this race, with the following numbers:
- 10:1 Advantage in YouTube video views
- 4:1 Advantage in Facebook fans
- 3:1 Advantage in Twitter mentions
- 10:1 Advantage in estimated web traffic
First of all, consider that conventional polling is flawed – they go through the phone book, so they exclude anyone without a land line. This social media polling data also excludes people – namely, those who don't use social media or the web. The question is, who is the more "likely voter", someone with a land line or someone who uses Facebook? I have no idea. I do know this: one day, more people will use social media than land lines - maybe not today, but probably not too far off either.
The social media polling data could simply mean that Scott Brown supporters are more excited about their candidate than Martha Coakley supporters – and even the conventional polling data has picked up on that notion. Clearly underdogs have the most passionate fan base (think crazy RedSox fans pre-2004).
Then there's the effect of non-Massachusetts residents (who can't vote in this election) affecting the social media engagement metrics – though as far as I can tell, the Senate race has attracted the attention of national special interest groups on both sides of the political spectrum. But are non-Massachusetts special interest groups and their followers 3 to 10 times more likely to be interested in Scott Brown than Martha Coakley?
It could be that the average Coakley supporter doesn't use the internet or social media venues as much as the average Scott Brown supporter. Again: is it plausible that her supporters use social media 3 to 10 times less?
It's also noteworthy to point out that in November 2008, Alexa had Barack Obama with an estimated five times larger Web presence over John McCain – and President Obama was famous for his success in connecting with the electorate over Twitter, YouTube and Facebook – and he won that election in a landslide.
In summary, while the data might not be complete, all available signs in the Social Media sphere currently point to a pretty strongly to a win by Scott Brown next week.
What are your thoughts? Post them in the comment fields below.
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