Anyone who has turned on their TV or spent time online over the past few days has seen headlines and stories about the Wisconsin recall election. Wisconsin voters headed to their local polling places on June 5 to vote for either incumbent Republican Governor Scott Walker or Milwaukee’s Democratic Mayor Tom Barrett.
Social media exploded with information about the recall election. Take a look at the number of tweets that contained the words “Wisconsin recall” on the morning of June 6th (c/o Topsy):
And these are the Twitter trending topics on the morning of June 6, 2012:
When you’re running a highly charged political campaign in which people have invested a good deal of time and resources, what’s the quickest way to reach the largest number of people? Two words: social media. Both Barrett and Walker took to Twitter and Facebook to rally supporters, and several prominent politicians and celebrities used social media to broadcast their candidate of choice. Barrett and Walker harmoniously coupled their political campaigns with social media campaigns.
Hindsight is 20/20. If we use the clarity of the present to illuminate the past, just how effectively did Barrett and Walker wage their social media campaigns? Did they use Twitter and Facebook effectively, or did their efforts fall flat? And, more so, if we analyze Barrett and Walker’s Twitter timelines and Facebook posts, can we see signs of an imminent victory or defeat within them?
Barrett Was Tweet Happy
Let’s look at Tom Barrett’s Twitter account (@Barrett4WI), which has around 8,462 followers. Barrett has a campaign slogan built right into his Twitter handle; this slogan is effective because it’s brief, it’s punchy, and it’s a great reminder of Barrett’s ultimate goal, which is to serve the state of Wisconsin. Barrett was very active on Twitter leading up to election day; his Twitter activity really picked up on May 21st, the day early voting started, and at some points in late May he sent upwards of 20 tweets per day. Twitter is about quantity (you have to stay active on Twitter if you want to reach people), but it’s also about quality. So, what kind of tweets did Barrett send out? Pictures, for one: a candid of Barrett and his wife voting in their neighborhood in Washington Heights, a large crowd of Barrett supporters at a rally, photos of Barrett and Bill Clinton, and photos submitted by supporters. Barrett also tweeted campaign videos and retweeted his supporters who have public clout. Consider this tweet from football player Jermichael Finley:
Or this one from Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (who is also the chair of the Democratic National Committee):
These kinds of retweets allow Barrett to showcase his backing from prominent people, and they’re also great for social proof.
When it came to Election Day, Barrett did exactly what any social-media-savvy person would do: he sent out a steady stream of tweets (15 over the course of the day). He was also heavy-handed in his use of call-to-actions (CTAs) (10 CTAs on Election Day between retweets and Barrett’s own tweets), like this one:
Barrett also tweeted some great resources, such as a link to the website Own Your Vote, where people can find their local polling place. He also tweeted a link to an image that tells people exactly what documents they need to bring to polling places if they need to register.
Barrett didn’t restrict his social media activity to Twitter: he was active on Facebook as well, posting 7 times on Election Day.
Barrett Gathered a Solid Number of Twitter Followers
Social media success can in part be determined by the number of followers an account can garner. Barrett collected a solid number of followers: over 300 in less than 24 hours. On the afternoon of Election Day, Barrett had 8,155 followers; the morning after, he had over 8,400. Barrett seemed to do everything right as far as social media: frequent tweets, celebrity endorsements, CTAs. And yet, he lost. Some pretty famous people took to Twitter to endorse him, namely the President:
Barrett even received a seemingly unlikely endorsement from Russell Simmons:
It looks like Barrett waged a successful social media campaign, but this success didn’t translate politically. What did his opponent do differently?
For Walker, It’s All About Job Creation Tweets
Governor Scott Walker has two Twitter accounts: his “official” account (@GovWalker), which has 42,185 followers, and then another account, (@ScottKWalker), which has 25,927 followers. These two Twitter accounts are actually kind of confusing because there doesn’t seem to be a discernible difference between the two of them, other than the fact that one is labeled “official.” Both are politically oriented, and Walker shares personal information on his official twitter account. Another strange happening: Walker follows only two people (though they’re not people, they’re websites) through his official account: HootSuite and UberSocial.
When it comes to the types of things Walker tweets, the majority were pictures of Walker interacting with supporters, meeting with people, and greeting crowds at rallies. This is a smart political move because pictures of Walker serving eggs to Wisconsinites at a local dinner make him seem like an everyday guy in touch with everyday people. Walker also devoted a large number of tweets to the topic of job creation (which makes sense given outcry by public workers is what sparked the recall). Tweets about new jobs and Walker’s commitment to creating jobs dominated his timeline on both accounts. Here’s a smattering of job-focused tweets:
Is Walker a Social Media Anomaly?
Again, this makes sense given public backlash against Walker. What doesn’t make sense, though, is Walker’s Twitter activity around the time of Election Day. Walker was active on Twitter, though not nearly as active as Barrett. Strangely, Walker’s activity actually slowed down in the beginning of June when the election was approaching. Is Walker a social media anomaly? He might be. On his unofficial account, which has far less followers than his official one, he tweeted seven times on Election Day (though only two CTAs compared to Barrett’s ten). But, on his official Governor account, Walker did not tweet at all on Election Day. In fact, he did not mention the election at all on this account. There were virtually no election-related tweets.
Walker seemed to put a lot of stock in a promoted tweet on his unofficial account. This tweet, a campaign video (of course prefaced by the number of jobs Walker has created since assuming office) takes up virtually half of his Twitter page. That’s some heavy-handed advertising. It might have worked, as Walker’s following increased by 2,000 after the election.
Walker Received Some Celebrity Endorsements As Well
Walker accumulated more followers than Barrett, but when it comes to celebrity endorsement, the two were pretty much equal. Celebs send out tweets of support and advocacy on behalf of Walker like they did for Barrett, though Walker didn’t retweet them. He actually doesn’t retweet anyone. For some reason, he wasn’t too keen on showcasing his support from Donald Trump:
Or Herman Cain:
Something else worth noting: Walker’s Twitter is far more personal. He used the first person (words like “I” and “me”), and it seems like tweets are coming directly from him. Barrett’s account used the third person (“Make calls for Tom,” “Tom is live right now”), and some of the tweets came from his staff. This is one thing Walker did right. People like to see the person behind the account; even when people follow brands, they like to see the personality behind the brand.
Walker Likes Facebook More Than Twitter
Walker put more energy into Facebook than he did Twitter. Walker was much more active on Facebook, unlike Barrett. Some signs that suggest Walker’s success: his “Like and Share” photos, which encourage people who voted for Walker to like and share the photo. This is great for raising awareness and also for social proof. One of these “like and share photos” received 10,480 likes and 4,274 shares. A simple CTA photo that urged people to “Vote Walker Today” gathered 13,599 likes and close to 4,000 shares. These are small numbers if you consider the total population of Wisconsin, but great engagement as far as Facebook is concerned.
The Bottom Line
It looks like Barrett and Walker waged successful social media campaigns, though their strategies were different. Barrett took to Twitter; Walker used Facebook. When it comes to some signs of defeat or victory, by looking at likes, shares, and number of Twitter followers, it looks like Walker reached more people. Whether this aided his efforts is up for debate, although given the ubiquity and sheer popularity of social media, I think it would be hard to conclude that Walker’s far reach didn’t help him. One thing is certain, though, the Wisconsin election is a hot topic. It was still trending on Google at 3:30 pm the day after the election.
Though apparently it’s not as important as Miley Cyrus’ love life. Even though an historic election in which over $60 million was raised occurred this week, Miley (and her 3.5 karat ring) still trumps all.