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New Facebook Presidential Debate Data Shows 'Winning' Means Going Beyond Engagement

SAN FRANCISCO, Nov. 2, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- With the United States Presidential election just less than a week away, new data and an infographic from Socialbakers, the leading social media analytics experts, show that while Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan may have led the race for fan engagement in the much-hyped "war of words"—the recent series of four Presidential debates—the Obama-Biden team still commands a much larger Facebook fan base and broader reach.

In fact, even though President Barack Obama took the early lead in activity with nearly 1.43 million "Likes" and 1.64 million interactions for his three Facebook posts leading up to the Oct. 3 Domestic Policy debate at the University of Denver, the Romney-Ryan ticket dominated the engagement leader board throughout the course of the next three debates.

However, while fan engagement is often touted as the master metric for gauging social media success, when it comes to politics, engagement can actually work against a candidate.

"For brands, negative comments are an opportunity to address issues early and quell any rising tide against their product or service," said Socialbakers CEO Jan Rezab. "But, this isn't necessarily the case for politicians whose 'non-fan' contingent will often post negative comments, tirades and off-topic diatribes that can dilute the value of their engagement rate."

This factor turns Socialbakers analysts' attention toward "Likes" and shares to get a better handle on exactly how well candidates are getting the message out to their constituents on the world's largest social network.

Among other highlights, Socialbakers' analysis and infographics reveal:
  • Reach can trump engagement. The Romney/Ryan team's engagement rate was consistently higher than Obama/Biden, as much as four times higher during the Oct. 16 Town Hall Meeting in Denver. However, Obama's overwhelmingly larger reach earns him far more "Likes" and shares. For example, Obama's most-shared post tallied over 168 thousand shares, almost twice that of Romney's most-shared post.
  • Fan count isn't the only factor that matters, but it certainly helps. During the Vice-Presidential debate on Oct. 11, Vice-President Joe Biden managed to post a higher Engagement Rate than Ryan—30 percent compared to Ryan's 15. However, with a fan count more than 10 times that of Biden, Ryan easily racked up 10 times more "Likes" and nearly five times more interactions across his 4.2 million fan base.
  • Post frequency is a strong driver of fan engagement. On Oct. 16, the Romney/Ryan machine published 13 posts to Obama's three and Biden's zero. As a result, Romney and Ryan maintained high engagement of 12 and 18 percent respectively, compared to just 3 percent for Obama that day.

"Clearly the Romney/Ryan ticket has a definitive Facebook edge, despite fewer fans," Rezab said. "Whether Facebook activity can actually predict or influence the election remains to be seen. It's much easier to click 'Like' from the comfort of your home, office or the train on your way to work, but both sides must now work overtime to convert these active online fans into motivated voters who actually put aside their computer or mobile device to cast a real-world vote at the polls next Tuesday."

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