Social media trends reflect GOP pres. race - WSMV Channel 4

Social media trends reflect GOP pres. race

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Twitter stats parsed out by Brandwatch show the percentage of conversation focused around each of the Republican presidential hopefuls in the four days before the New Hampshire primary polls closed. (Source: Brandwatch) Twitter stats parsed out by Brandwatch show the percentage of conversation focused around each of the Republican presidential hopefuls in the four days before the New Hampshire primary polls closed. (Source: Brandwatch)
Former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney talks to a crowd in New Hampshire on Dec. 21. (Source: Mitt Romney/flickr) Former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney talks to a crowd in New Hampshire on Dec. 21. (Source: Mitt Romney/flickr)
Texas Representative Ron Paul talks to supporters in West Columbia, SC on Jan. 11. (Source: CNN) Texas Representative Ron Paul talks to supporters in West Columbia, SC on Jan. 11. (Source: CNN)
Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum speaks to students at Valley High School in West Des Moines, IA, on Jan. 3. (Source: Gage Skidmore/flickr) Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum speaks to students at Valley High School in West Des Moines, IA, on Jan. 3. (Source: Gage Skidmore/flickr)

(RNN) - With all six Republican presidential hopefuls making their way from New Hampshire to South Carolina, analysts are turning to the candidates' social media profiles to predict which direction the campaigns will take.

Supporters across the country are coming together on the nominees' Facebook and Twitter pages, reflecting a trend that President Barack Obama was credited for beginning with his run for the White House in 2008. The platforms allow users to engage in debate and discussion with both the presidential hopefuls and each other.

"Keep the economy, jobs and capitalism at the center of your message," Scott Kelly advised on former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's Facebook wall. "Don't let them change the focus."

Numbers released Wednesday by the social media monitoring company Brandwatch show that Twitter buzz for the candidates reflected the eventual outcome of the New Hampshire primary. Updates shared an hour before polls closed were proportionate to the final tally of the vote, with Romney dominating the conversation with more than 50 percent of primary tweets mentioning him. He won New Hampshire by 39.3 percent.

The percentage of tweets for the other candidates was almost exactly the percentage of votes they got.

The amount candidates can engage with the public through social media is no doubt paying off for them, especially considering that a Rasmussen Reports poll found that only 32 percent of New Hampshire Republicans had met at least one of the nominees.

The candidates are seeing their support grow in real time, with Romney in the lead after taking both Iowa and the Granite State, gaining 350 Facebook followers in just an hour Wednesday morning. He was surpassed only by Texas Representative Ron Paul, who saw an increase of 378 followers in the same period.

Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, who surprised the nation with a near-upset in Iowa, only saw his following grow by 29 people in the hour. He ended the New Hampshire primary in fifth place with only 9.4 percent of the vote.

Despite the setback, his social media supporters are quick to motivate him to stay in the race as the primaries get going.

"I would guess it will take a miracle to get the liberal northeast to back Senator Santorum," Pamela Eldred, an Indiana-native, wrote on Santorum's Facebook wall before polls had closed. "South Carolina will be a different story."

The social media monitoring group SocialBakers predicted that Romney, Paul and Santorum would dominate the New Hampshire election after Facebook data showed all three gain a large, engaged following.

From Dec. 10 to Jan. 8, the company tracked Romney as the most talked about candidate, with more than 108,000 mentions, while Paul had the most viral reach. Santorum made a whopping 107 percent gain in followers.

Of these three, Paul had the "most engaging post about the New Hampshire primary," with an update reaching 16,121 likes and 2,302 comments. Romney's most engaging post reached 8,915 likes and 1,797 comments, while Santorum's only got 2,590 likes and 797 comments.

The skewed prediction may have been in part because of the lack of people committed to actually following the politicians on Facebook. As of noon Wednesday, Romney had more than 1.3 million "likes" on Facebook while Paul had only 717,000 and Santorum fell off with only 75,000.

The candidates still have a chance to amp up their social media campaigning in time for South Carolina. Polls will open in the Palmetto State at 7 a.m. Jan. 21.

Copyright 2012 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.

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