Social Scorecard: How the Presidential Candidates Stack Up

Social media helped win the White House in 2008. Best-selling social media author Eric Harr scores the presidential candidates in social media.

FOUR YEARS AGO, the Washington Post dubbed Barack Obama the “King of Social Media.”

It was a fitting sobriquet. After all, Obama used the untested new medium to flat-out out-fox and out-run the most well-oiled, well-entrenched political machine of our time in the Clintons.

But Obama’s secrets are no longer. The GOP is poised to pounce and will likely use everything they learned, with a potent mix of new tactics, to rocket Romney to victory in November.

There’s a lot on the line with social media. Experts believe the race will come down to a few swing states where undecideds can be won over in the high-touch trenches of social.

Before I score the candidates, we need some perspective:

One: while social media is the fastest-growing form of communication in history, tens of millions of Americans don’t use it. They typically skew older—and they vote. Through rain, sleet or snow, they vote…con sarnit! The question will be: Can the President galvanize voters via social the way he did in 2008? 

Two: It’s not that I have a man-crush on Obama’s social strategy, it’s that his team has been crushing it since 2007. He has a 5-year head start on Romney. So, take these numbers with a grain of salt. Romney will likely gain ground this year. (At least, he’d better.)


Twitter is an epicenter for real-time news and can move messages far, fast and wide. It’s an immensely-powerful tool, particularly when you are making movements and rallying people to a cause.

Let’s start with POTUS. He has 14,728,496 followers. That’s a veritable horde. But, “followers”? Well, they’re a vanity metric. To find out how much those 14 million can truly move the needle for the President, we need to go deeper into what I call the “metrics that matter.” For example, “Tweetreach” reflects the engagement level and influence of one’s followers. I tried to run a “Tweetreach” on the President, and the API froze four times. That means it’s a big number. (After working my way through an entire glass of Pinot, I finally prevailed; POTUS’s Tweetreach is 17,482,001.)

But, the President isn’t perfect on Twitter. A timeline speaks volumes about a person (or a brand). For example, the President very rarely @replies, which gives the impression that he doesn’t listen.

Mr. President, save the soaring oratory for speeches, and use Twitter to listenand respond to your constituency. Social media isn’t a marketing, media or messaging channel. It’s a human relationship. Twitter is a two-way conversation. @replying a dozen or so times a day will make it at least appear that you care and that you are listening to people’s very-real woes. Town hall it, Mr. President.

With 467,813 followers and a downright anemic Tweetreach of 27,383, Mitt is in deep s—. That’s an awful disparity. It means the Governor has a lot of followers who are milling about the party, staring at each other—and worst of all: not drinking! It confirms what many critics say about Governor Romney: that he’s not compelling enough to win, that he plays it too safe. Safe doesn’t nearly cut it on Twitter. Safe = death.

Governor Romney, you need to scale and scale quickly. You can do that by deploying compelling, creative Twitter-specific, voter-centric campaigns and engaging high-Klout influencers to light big, bright fires for you. Here’s what I recommend: Identify 1,000 people with a Klout Network Impact of above 50. Invite them to a jaw-dropper hosted by someone beloved like Billy Crystal (not someone insane like Ted Nugent), bring your A-game and work the room. Make no mistake: this new vanguard of influencers can help you win in November. (Also, stop badmouthing the President on Twitter. You’re doing it way too much. Focus on what you’re going to do, not on what he’s not doing. Positive and on-point wins hearts and goes viral on Twitter.)


Obama: A-
Romney: C-


It’s the world’s biggest social network, and after May 18, it’s only going to biggerer and biggerer and biggerer.

As of this writing, the President isn’t well-liked; he’s massively-loved: 26,154,168 to be exact—with 341,805 “talking about this.” He’s deployed a textbook Facebook strategy, and it shows. Mr. President, you nailing Facebook about as well as any human can. Keep it up, sir.

Governor Romney has 1,648,413 likes with 149,713 “talking about this.” Interesting! A heartbeat! While Governor Romney lags well behind The Pres in “likes,” he has nearly half as many folks “talking about this.” That means Mr. Romney is engaging people on Facebook. That’s it, Mitt. Good stuff. Now, apply what you’re doing on Facebook to Twitter!


Obama: A
Romney: B


Video remains the most compelling media; it’s where you can establish the deepest emotional connection with people. The President’s “Yes We Can” video was a seminal moment, and a tipping point, in the 2008 election. It cracked the Earth’s floor. It made meaning and built a groundswell. That’s what you do in social.

The President now has 183,523,355 views and 209,731 subscribers on YouTube. That’s a lot. When the President deploys a video, he has a volunteer army ready to re-broadcast it to their trusting, captive communities.

Mitt’s metrics reflect, again, how safe he’s playing it. With 6,647,925 views and a mere 7,083 subscribers, Mitt better get “share-worthy.” Fast. Mr. Romney, you don’t have to change who you are (I never recommend that. People have sensitive antennae, and it never works out.), but you need to change how you do it. You have to find your “it.” And, “Mitt’s It” has to resonate. It has to win people’s hearts. Know what I mean?


Obama: A-
Romney: B-


Like we need to generate any more interest in Pinterest. But, I’m including it in my social scorecard, because it is the third most-visited social network (I know, crazy right?)—and more importantly, it skews heavily female.

Obama is using it well, pinning dashing images of himself, his family, campaign supporters and paraphernalia and visuals that support administration policies. He has pinned infographics on job growth and the health-care act, as well as images of people supporting or affected by the administration’s initiatives. He’s got 14,475 followers—and that number is growing fast.

Interestingly, and disturbingly, Mitt isn’t pinning yet, but his wife Ann is. She’s got 5,902 followers who enjoy boards such as “Family,” “Recipes” (weirdly disproportionate amount of granola) and “Campaign.”

Governor Romney, it reflects poorly that Mrs. Romney had to drag her man on to Pinterest. You desperately need to salvage your image among women. This is a major strategic mistake/PR blunder that you need to fix quickly.


Obama: B+
Romney: D+


To determine online influence, I turned to Klout. Don’t get mad. It’s the best we’ve got.

Rather than use the straight-up Klout score (I don’t know, it feels too flabby and generalized to me), I focused on a deeper, more relevant metric: Network Impact. That’s the influence level of your engaged audience. When it comes time to call on voters, I believe that’ll matter more.

The President’s Network Impact is 64. More importantly, it’s rising. It means, Web-wide, he’s doing a lot right.

While Governor Romney is right behind with a Network Impact of 60, it’s declining. That is a serious issue symptomatic of a deeper problem. Mr. Romney, your team needs to address that. It’s like you’re exercising like crazy, but your cholesterol is rising.


Obama: B+
Romney: B


Social campaigns need to be creative, compelling, buzzworthy—and most of all they need to move the needle on an organizations’ key business objectives.

Obama got Clooney. That raised money, drew in women, solidified support in Hollywood and cemented his cool. He also gave out two tickets to the community. Nicely done, Mr. President.

Mitt, Mitt, Mitt. Come on, man! Obama is chilling with Clooney! Fire up some brain-hurricanes over at campaign HQ! Don’t be a caution expert. Bring in Bogusky, Weiden or Hahn. Pour Pinot, and get to work.

I’m not saying sit shirtless on a white horse with a clamshell full of diamonds and tickets to “that thing ladies love.” I’m saying you need breakout material. Engage. Get people fired up. Make meaning. A single brilliant integrated social campaign can do that. “Kony 2012” it, man! (Not the nudity part; the viral part).

P.S. Mr. President, chilling with Clooney and slow-jamming the news with Jimmy Fallon boosts your already-tropospheric cool quotient, but tread carefully. Keep it up, and Romney could say that he may be “too school for cool,” but you are “too cool for school”: “While the President spends his time schmoozing celebrities and slow-jamming the news, as President, I will spend my time making sure you have jobs.”


Obama: A
Romney: C-


The Obama team deployed a brilliant website strategy in 2008. They knew the thing isn’t what a website looks like, but rather what it does. They didn’t “set it and forget it” like the McCain campaign did. The Obama team knew that a website should constantly change based on behavioral analytics and drive Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). For example, the Obama team A/B split-tested everything from copy to button color, honing and refining that website into a revenue-producing juggernaut. The President’s current site is great. It calls people to a couple clear calls to action, and his Alexa Rank stands at 916 with 17,458 sites linking in.

While Governor Romney’s website is sufficient, his team would do well to read: “Don’t Make Me Think” by Steve Krug. (Incidentally, this is required reading for anyone with a website.)

Mr. Romney scores solidly on Alexa: 3,427. It means people are visiting. But, there are only 3,897 sites linking in. He needs a stronger backlinking strategy.


Obama: A
Romney: A-


This new anti-Klout tool has no scientific value whatsoever. Still, I find it interesting and entertaining. So, I included it.

According to Klouchebag, the President is “a bit of a prat” with a score of 31 (lower is better). He got dinged for “Retweet abuse” and “English misuse.”

Governor Romney scored a 43. That makes him “Quite Noisy.” Romney got hit for “Retweet Abuse,” “Social Apps” and “English Misuse.”

(Out of sheer morbid curiosity, I scored a 7. Klouchebag thinks I am a “nice person.” That made me feel good about myself in a Stuart Smalley kind of way.)




Clearly, the President has Governor Romney on the ropes. But, things are just heating up and Mitt will most surely make up ground.

Two key questions:

  1. Social media skews younger, so it paints a skewed picture. Will all of these “conversations” turn to “conversions?” In other words, will the youngsters come out and vote in force the way they did last time?
  2. Will Governor Romney use social media to shore up with women and Hispanics? He absolutely can—and must. But, will his team continue to pursue an ad hoc approach in social? We shall see.



Suggestions to the candidates:

Mr. President: With a few notable exceptions (see above), keep doing what you’re doing. Just try to resist being so cool so often. Another slow jam can put you in a jam as Romney will portray you as someone “too cool for school.” You are going to have a much tougher time building a tsunami-like groundswell like you did in 2008, but you have a colossal lead in social. Spend your hard-earned “social capital” wisely.

Governor Romney: You have a lot of work ahead. But, you saved the Olympic Games! You’re not unaccustomed to big challenges and hard work. The President won last time, among other things, by building a groundswell. If you want to win, do the same. Social media is your extended volunteer campaign staff. Build it. Remember, Karen in Kansas comes to the party not as a mere individual, but as an empowered miniature media outlet, with a Twitter following, Facebook community and Linkedin network. Win the hearts of people like her, and you could win the election. Bring old school to new media.

And, start pinning, will ya?

Fairfax resident Eric Harr is the new Social Media Expert for CBS News and the Founder & President of Resonate Social, an integrated marketing agency in San Francisco. He is the author of “The REAL TRUTH About Social Media: 8 Timeless Truths Uncovered & 8 Monumental Myths Revealed” now available in bookstores nationwide and on the REAL TRUTH Website. He is the creator of FlyRight, the world’s first real-time customer service app that uses the social web to empower you with a stronger voice as it enables airlines to improve service. Engage with him on Twitter.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Pebes July 23, 2012 at 09:44 PM
wow, you people are off your rockers.
Rev. Daniel Christian July 23, 2012 at 09:57 PM
Eric, What a smart and engaging post! Keep it up. I look forward to the next one.
Eric Harr July 24, 2012 at 02:39 AM
Thank you Rev. Christian! I appreciate that very much!
Eric Harr July 24, 2012 at 02:40 AM
I wanted to make a general comment here: in no way am I endorsing either candidate. I was simply providing an analysis and commentary on their social presences. Moreover, I do NOT believe social media will determine the outcome; it is merely one of many factors that will influence it. I appreciate all of the comments. Thank you! ~Eric
Rev. Daniel Christian July 24, 2012 at 10:41 PM
Hi Eric, I reread your blog and your view is timely and important in our modern world of presidential elections and image building! Rev. Dan


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