Twitter matters

by | Dec 29, 2014 | Campaigns, Editor's Blog, Social Media Rankings | 2 comments

I’m back after taking a week to spend time with family instead of focusing obsessively on politics. I hope everyone is enjoying a happy holiday season.

Last week, a group called Verifeed released a report saying that Republicans won the twitter war in North Carolina and helped push Thom Tillis over the top. Gary Pearce called BS. So did WRAL’s Mark Binker. I have a different take.

Verifeed may have overstated the influence of twitter on the race, but people are getting their information in different ways than they have in the past and twitter is part of that equation. Information from social media is more conversational and, in some ways, more subtle. Political people are used to watching powerful TV ads shift public opinion in a few short days. That may still work for people watching television, but fewer and fewer people get their entertainment or information from real time television.

While watching Stephen Colbert’s final show, I got frustrated with the length on commercials and realized that I haven’t watched a show in real time in a very long time. I watch a lot of netflix, a fair number of premium channels and some taped programs, but I don’t watch commercials. In fact, I can’t remember seeing a political ad during the election that I didn’t watch on my computer.

I don’t think I’m an exception. My 25 year old daughter consumes almost all of her media on a phone or pad. My parents are some of the last people I know who watch TV in real time. And that’s who the ads are reaching–older voters.

Like Gary, the people in my twitter feed all knew who they are going to vote for. But I don’t follow Katy Perry, Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift or almost any of the other 50 most followed people on twitter. Those folks all have tens of millions of followers and I bet a bunch of those followers don’t watch television but do vote. The challenge for political campaigns going forward is to figure out how to reach them. Better understanding social media and how information is shared will be key to winning in the future.


  1. larry

    Maybe a good in depth look at Verifeed web page might enlighten. I have found that social media is mostly hyped by those who are either deeply involved in the business of social media or directly benefit from its use. Verifeed fits the profile. I suppose the question is or was: Was the Tillis campaign a Verifeed customer? Or is Verifeed simply trolling NC pols for business. My gut says it is or could be both. Twitter is a great forum for like minded people or people with the same interest or agendas but does it really “move” votes? I doubt it.

  2. Pete Kaliner

    I agree with Mr. Mills’ assessment here – Verifeed might have overstated it a bit, but it’s very important to understand the dynamic that Twitter plays on campaigns. I believe the biggest impact is the influence Twitter (as a platform) has on news story identification and selection. Reporters are always on the hunt for story ideas to pitch to their editors & managers.

    Most reporters – especially political reporters – rely heavily on their Twitter feed. It’s become a personal wire service – where reporters can filter newsmakers, operatives, PR flacks, and politicians into specific lists. You can really see the “echo chamber” in full effect with this approach.

    Likewise, the hasthtags #NCSen and #NCpol provide a plethora of stories (and links) from all across the political spectrum. The proverbial “drinking from a fire hose.” The key is breaking through the clutter… and this is where the Verifeed analysis shows Twitter’s influence. When stories get a lot of attention, they tend to break through. The perfect example was Hagan’s skipped ISIS briefing.

    The Washington Free Beacon did the story, but no other media outlet in NC would touch it. However, it got pushed for weeks via social media, and eventually prompted a question from a reporter after the second debate. The greater the push on social media, the greater chance a reporter sees the story and follows up.

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