With social media now firmly in the business of selling political ads, one of the more intriguing contests of this election cycle may be whether record ad spending helps to reinforce the business models social networks like Facebook, Pandora ( P) and Twitter. It's the first election season during which social media giants are making their pitch for a bigger share of the political dollars that typically go to established Web players like Google ( GOOG) and Yahoo! ( YHOO), as well as broadcast giants like Time Warner ( TWX), CBS ( CBS) and Disney ( DIS). Some analysts expect ad spending this election cycle to add meaningful third- and fourth-quarter revenue for Facebook and Pandora. Arguably even more important than a prospective earnings boost will be whether the social media giants prove their respective business models work in generating ad dollars as investors demand a clearer picture on platform monetization. Michael Pachter, a managing director of research at Wedbush Securities, gave TheStreet a back of the envelope calculation that social networks may see an election cycle revenue boost of more than $100 million in the second half of 2012.
He sees up to $5 billion in overall presidential and congressional ad spending this election season with roughly 10% allocated to the Web. To be seen is whether campaign ad spending and Facebook's election day efforts can impress investors or tie into mobile efforts. In using Facebook's iPhone app on Tuesday, there's little sign of any Election Day traffic and the buttons and sites that can be accessed on desktops don't immediately appear. Meanwhile, Twitter is ablaze with political handicapping and speculation. President Obama and Rebuplican Candidate Mitt Romney have profiles on both networks with millions of followers respectively. While Facebook CEO Zuckerberg and COO Sherly Sandberg were able to impress investors with how third quarter mobile results tied into the company's overall outlook, watch for the presidential election to give new data and talking points for the social network in fourth quarter earnings. Voters won't only be choosing between Democrats, Republicans and Independents - they'll also be choosing between social networks. For more on Facebook, see why the company's valuation shouldn't be a trick question on Wall Street. Also see why a venture capital investor says to think long-term on Facebook after its weak post-IPO performance. Follow @agara2004 -- Written by Antoine Gara in New York