Thursday, May 28, 2009

The 2012 Presidential Candidates on Twitter

The real reason FHQ now has a presence on Twitter is because I wanted to check out the involvement the top contenders for the 2012 Republican nomination have on the service. To me, that was the easiest way to answer the "How much is Twitter worth?" question. And the resounding answer to the question was, "A lot." With some caveats, all of FHQ's Elite Eight candidates for 2012 have a Twitter account and use them with varying levels of frequency. For instance, Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee tweet quite a bit -- multiple times a day and every one of those Elite Eight (plus Bobby Jindal, John Thune, Haley Barbour and John Ensign) have at least put something up in the last week.

But who's watching? A Twitter presence obviously doesn't amount to much if no one is paying attention. Newt Gingrich, for instance, just yesterday made a couple of Sotomayor-related comments (here and here) that netted the former Speaker an additional 5000 followers. That is a drop in the bucket compared to his total number of followers, but that influx amounts to about a fifth of the total number of followers of the next highest prospective candidate, Sarah Palin.

To what extent, then, are the potential 2012 candidates being followed on Twitter?
As of yesterday around this time, Newt Gingrich had about 344,000 followers of his Twitter feed. For the sake of comparison, Barack Obama has about 1.3 million followers and FHQ has 1. Gingrich's total dwarfs all the other possible candidates and skews an otherwise nice figure. As such, let's remove the former Speaker and look at the remaining nine likely possibilities.
Basically, you have the troika of Palin, Jindal and Huckabee and then everyone else. Those three all offer relatively frequent contributions -- though Jindal has been quiet in May compared to April -- and that certainly helps augment their follower totals. Sure, Mitt Romney is there too, but that feed has but one tweet and overall is likely hampered by that fact -- in terms of Twitter at least. Charlie Crist is also hurt by the fact that he has started a feed to coincide with his Senate run announcement. In other words, that one has only been active for a couple of weeks.

Now, what does all of this mean? Well, tracking Twitter followers is interesting, but as is the case with Google Trends data, not without shortcomings. The main issue is whether those followers are active or if they are Twitter quitters. Gingrich has a solid total, but what if, say, a third of those followers aren't actively following anymore? [Well, that still beats everyone else, doesn't it?] Of course, it is more damaging when you consider the 60% drop off Nielsen found. Still, I think this is another layer that can be added in to the candidate emergence picture.

Recent Posts:
FHQ Now on Twitter

Does the Sotomayor Choice Make Texas a Swing State?

Two Huckabee Slips in One Day?

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