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Sizing Up Which Presidential Campaigns Are #Winning in Twitter Influence

As part of an ongoing series on how candidates use social media this election season, Margaret Warner and journalists Lauren Ashburn and Howard Kurtz of Daily-Download.com discuss how influential the Obama and Romney presidential campaigns are on Twitter. They also examine John Edwards’ standing in the Twittersphere.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Now to politics.

    Margaret Warner has our look at what's lighting up the Web this week.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    And we turn to our regular look at the campaign as it plays out in social media and on the Web.

    For that, we're joined by two journalists from the Web site Daily-Download.com. That's why a hyphen. Lauren Ashburn is the site's editor in chief, formerly with USA Today Live and Gannett Broadcasting. And Howard Kurtz is "Newsweek"'s Washington bureau chief and host of CNN's "Reliable Sources."

    And welcome back to you both.

    First, before we get into the presidential campaign, what about the drama that began at mid-afternoon over the impending John Edwards verdict? What was the reaction in the Twittersphere and social media land?

  • HOWARD KURTZ, “Newsweek”/CNN:

    Margaret, Twitter has absolutely been on fire over this trial.

    And overwhelmingly the comments have been either negative or outright — against the former presidential candidate. I wonder why there's still so much passion about this. It's a campaign finance trial. Edwards has been washed up, discredited for four years.

    And I think the reason is because of the drama surrounding his late wife, Elizabeth, and his relationship with his campaign videographer. People still are treating this like a soap opera. They still do care about it, and so it far transcends the legal aspects of this trial. MARGARET WARNER: So on to the presidential campaign. What's the social media buzz been about this past week?

  • LAUREN ASHBURN, Daily-Download.com:

    Past week, really, the Obama campaign has been focusing on economics and on Romney economics.

    They bought the Web site term RomneyEconomics.com and have been pushing that. Stephanie Cutter, who works for the campaign, has been very active on Twitter talking about how Romney is not good for the country and his economics plans are not good for the country.

  • HOWARD KURTZ:

    And Romney has been pushing back by raising the issue of Solyndra. This is the solar power facility that went bankrupt after it got a federal loan. There were questions about whether it was too cozy with the administration.

    So getting the campaign conversation off the Bain Capital, when he worked for that takeover company, and on to what the president has been doing with federal money is his way of pushing back in this online war, which plays out in a very different way sometimes than what we see in the newspapers and on television.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    So, how many people are they reaching with these tweets from the campaign? How many followers do each candidate have?

  • LAUREN ASHBURN:

    We have put that together for you.

    There's a company called PeekAnalytics that has done some very interesting things around analyzing Twitter. You can see that President Obama has 16 million Twitter followers, Romney 520,000, and Ron Paul, not too bad a showing here for someone, 296,000 followers.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    And so how many tweets a day, if you're a follower of one of these three candidates, would you get?

  • HOWARD KURTZ:

    It depends on the day. Sometimes, they just come rapid fire as they try to drive a particular message.

    It's not surprising that the president of the United States, who has been in office almost 3.5 years, would have so many more followers. What I found surprising, if you have that other graphic, is where these people lived, because unfortunately for the Obama campaign, nearly half are out of the country. Most of those people obviously can't vote in a U.S. election. Mitt Romney, only 10 percent outside the United States.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    Right, but if you do the math, that still leaves Obama with eight million and Romney with under 500,000.

  • HOWARD KURTZ:

    It does.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    So when President Obama then — last week, he gave a speech — I think it was about late last week — in Iowa and then he sat down with a laptop and started tweeting answers to questions people tweeted in. But he has to keep them to 140 characters. How did that go?

  • LAUREN ASHBURN:

    It was called a Twitter town hall essentially. And so people can tweet @BarackObama and ask him a question and en he will respond @JoeSmith and here's the answer.

    And it did get a lot of traffic, a lot of play.

  • HOWARD KURTZ:

    And the president pushed some of his favorite issues, such as the Congress not acting so far to stop the student loan rate from going up. And they very carefully decided what messages they wanted to push.

  • LAUREN ASHBURN:

    But, on Twitter, what's important, what we're learning, is that it's not just the messages that you send out, but the way in which those messages are received.

    So we have another graphic for you done again by PeekAnalytics that talks about this term — it's a new term — called social pull and the social pull of your Twitter followers.

    You may remember the story where people looked into the quality of Newt Gingrich's followers, and a lot of them weren't people. So…

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    What does that mean?

  • LAUREN ASHBURN:

    Let me show you.

    Obama here has 5,000 times the pull, the social pull of Mitt Romney and Ron Paul, meaning that it's an audience-based metric, and it's talking about the transparency and the quality of your followers. So, it's not all about quantity. It's not about having the 15 million. It's about the people who follow you and are they actively engaged with you and do they retweet you?

  • HOWARD KURTZ:

    Right. I think 5,000 times the average person or 466 times in Romney's case the average person.

    Part of it means, how many followers did they have and are they considered influential movers and shakers? A lot of people just follow action on Twitter. They don't write anything.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    I see. And they don't write anything back or retweet it.

  • HOWARD KURTZ:

    Right.

  • LAUREN ASHBURN:

    And so they're not the people who are really very helpful to the candidates.

  • HOWARD KURTZ:

    It helps to have a lot of followers. But at the same time, if you have got Mark Zuckerberg following you, that maybe counts for a lot — well, he would probably stay on Facebook.

    (CROSSTALK)

    (LAUGHTER)

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    But the idea is that it's supposed to have a multiplier effect, ideally.

  • LAUREN ASHBURN:

    That's correct.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    So what is the explanation for the difference there?

  • LAUREN ASHBURN:

    Well, I think in part that President Obama has been on Twitter and has been in the world a lot longer, so obviously his pull is going to be greater.

    But with — what I find interesting about this is that, with Romney and with Paul, there isn't that big of a divide.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    All right, we will leave it there. But, Lauren and Howie, thanks again.

  • HOWARD KURTZ:

    Thank you.

  • LAUREN ASHBURN:

    You're welcome.

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