Twitter and the Presidential Debate: Trends for Social Media Marketers

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The Presidential debates between President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Governor, Mitt Romney, have created an avalanche of conversation and activity across social networks from Reddit to Twitter.

As you would expect, some of the buzz is undoubtedly partisan in nature, with Romney fans facing off against Obama supporters. But, many participants are taking a much more casual approach, sharing witty observations and spreading humorous memes.

Tech blog, Mashable, offered a breakdown of where the conversations were happening online after the first debate:

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  • Twitter hosted 77 percent of the total conversation.
  • Blogs took up 7 percent of the buzz.
  • Facebook was the scene for 6 percent.
  • Tumblr users made up another 6 percent.

Clearly, the real-time Twitter timeline is the most popular venue for debate watchers. In fact, researchers estimated that there were 10.3 million tweets sent during the 90-minute debate broadcast in early October.

Other than getting the scoop on how the candidates feel about Big Bird, marketers can gain some valuable insights from how viewers have approached the debate experience:

  • Capitalize on the multi-screen habit. The verdict is in: We’re living in a multi-screen world.According to a recent study from Google, 90 percent of those surveyed move between screens to accomplish a goal, whether they’re performing a task, seeking a particular kind of information or taking part in a recreational experience.And what’s the most popular second screen? The smartphone. In fact, a recent Pew Internet study indicates that 52 percent of those surveyed actively use their cellphones while watching televisions to chat with friends, dig into information they’ve just heard or visit websites they’ve seen onscreen.
  • Brands have seen great success from encouraging multiscreen activity. Twitter hashtag chats around television shows, Facebook polls gauging audience reaction to onscreen action, blogs by reality show participants with busy comment sections… each one gives viewers a reason to open up another screen and get in on the action. The more screens you own, the better!
  • Tap into the social “reaction.” People turn to social networks when they want to share their reaction to cultural, political and news events. Savvy marketers can learn a lot from these reactions, if they’re paying attention. What channels do your customers turn to first when they’re riled up—or when they’re brimming with enthusiasm? What can you learn from how they express themselves? Do they engage more often with friends and family, or fellow viewers? Do they get involved before, during or after big events? What can you do to drive those conversations, or create an environment where buzz is welcome? There are dozens of lessons here for attentive brands.
  • Be Switzerland. Companies from Chik Fil-A to KitchenAid to StubHub have ended up at the center of controversy as of late, because of intentional OR accidental comments on political and social issues. If you want to engage with a broad audience, it’s optimal to stay out of the fray… especially when all the buzz that’s being generated can seem irresistible.

By taking a closer look at how people are using social networks to augment their cultural and social experience during the last few weeks of the 2012 election season, smart marketers can find new insights for maximizing engagement across digital channels –and that can help your brand win a “yes” vote when it’s time to buy.

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