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GOP Savvier on Twitter Than Barack Obama

President Obama (@BarackObama) waged a Twitter war on Republican congressmen Friday, tweeting out the Twitter handles of GOPers state-by-state and asking constituents to tweet their support for a “bi-partisan solution.” This tactic lost Obama nearly 37,000 followers, and as Hot Air pointed out, that is more than twice the number of jobs he created last month.

The @BarackObama twitter account is run by his 2012 campaign team and until Friday, his team’s tweets primarily consisted of links to new posts on his campaign website. In the 2008 election, Obama had cornered the social media market, but if last weeks’ failed attack is any indication, he may have lost his hold over the competition.

But Obama’s online mistake was the Republicans gain. GOP congressman targeted by his tweets gained several thousand new followers and it gave Republican leaders the chance to fire back online. Declared candidate Herman Cain and potential candidate Sarah Palin made the biggest splash with their tweets to the President.

Cain used Obama’s own hashtag of “#compromise” to point out the ridiculousness of the online GOP attack. He tweeted, “@BarackObama calls for bipartisanship. Then tweets out names of GOP lawmakers to attack. #youredoingitwrong #compromise.” Cain also used this online platform to call attention to Obama’s lack of leadership in this debt ceiling crisis tweeting, “Since @BarackObama began his GOP Twitter hit-list, U.S. has accrued $600m in debt. Leadership, however, is priceless.”

Palin used her online influence to poke fun at Obama’s strategy and prove that she has the social media game figured out this time around. She also asked constituents to contact their congressman, but unlike Obama, she gave them the specific message she would like to promote. She tweeted, “@BarackObama wants us to contact Congress. Great idea! Tell them to rein in our dangerously unsustainable debt to protect our credit rating.” And like Cain, Palin also criticized Obama’s leadership tweeting, “ @BarackObama you’re wrong, threatening to throw seniors under the bus because you refuse to prioritize govt spending.Time to & #womanup and lead.”

Slideshow of Cain and Palin Tweets

But Palin and Cain are not the only presidential candidates using Twitter to campaign. All of the 2012 GOP candidates have already begun tweeting away about their candidacy and policy positions, and a few have become a powerful online influence.

HUMAN EVENTS decided to take a closer look into the online lives of the 2012 GOP candidate field using Klout.com, a website that measures and categorizes Twitter users online influence, and the Tweet Topic Explorer, a bubble chart illustrating the user’s most popular tweet themes.

Klout scored each of the candidates, assigning a numeric value to their online influence. Scores range from one to 100. Klout also groups Twitter users according to their tweeting style. The candidates fell into four different groups: Pundits[1], Thought Leaders[2], Broadcasters[3] and Specialists[4].

Tweet Topic Explorer for each candidate

Leading the pack with a Klout score of 76, Sarah Palin (@SarahPalinUSA) seems to have mastered the art of tweeting. Klout categorized her as a “Thought Leader” and well over half a million Twitter followers seem to agree. Interestingly enough, she tweets most about Obama, according to the Tweet Topic Explorer. She often uses all 140-characters to offer her opinion on the current administration into the online conversation. The bubbles for “Alaska” and “book” are also quite prominent, though most of these tweets were in regards to Palin’s television show, “Sarah Palin’s Alaska” and her current book tour.

Palin’s Twitter bubble can be found here: http://tweettopicexplorer.neoformix.com/#n=SarahPalinUSA

Herman Cain (@THEHermanCain) ranks just below Palin with a score of 75, though his actual number of followers is just over 50,000. He is considered by Klout to be a “Thought Leader,” influential about the Republican Party. Cain uses Twitter primarily as a forum for self promotion. Almost every tweet lists an upcoming television or radio appearance. However, Cain also gives followers a peak into his personal life, tweeting about his wife and family, which seems to work in his favor.

Cain’s Twitter bubble can be found here: http://tweettopicexplorer.neoformix.com/#n=THEHermanCain

Newt Gingrich (@NewtGingrich)- Though the rest of the world has pretty much counted him out of the presidential race, his online influence tells a different story. Gingrich has over 1.3 million followers, more than double that of Sarah Palin, and he holds a Klout score of 72. The former Speaker of the House falls into the category of “Pundit” and most of his tweets center around jobs and taxes. However, since announcing his presidential candidacy, Gingrich has also taken to more publicly criticizing Obama through his Twitter feed.

Gingrich’s Twitter bubble can be found here: http://tweettopicexplorer.neoformix.com/#n=NewtGingrich

Mitt Romney (@MittRomney)- Though Romney uses Twitter less than some of his counterparts, he still holds on to a solid Klout score of 71. According to his Tweet Topic Explorer, Romney used to primarily use his Twitter account to promote new blog posts and videos on his website. Recently though, his focus has shifted. Almost every tweet has had to do with the state of the economy and rising unemployment, all hashtagged with a new trend: #ObamaIsntWorking.

Romney’s’s twitter handle can be found here: http://tweettopicexplorer.neoformix.com/#n=MittRomney

Ron Paul (@RonPaul)- Paul is considered by Klout to be a “Pundit” and holds a Klout score of 71, though he hasn’t quite mastered the art of tweeting. Almost every post is hashtagged with #tcot, “Top Conservatives on Twitter,” #tlot, “Top Libertarians on Twitter,” and #GOP2012, rendering them all useless as search tools. Paul seems to only use Twitter as a platform for campaign announcements, not as a way to communicate with supporters.

Paul’s’s twitter bubble can be found here: http://tweettopicexplorer.neoformix.com/#n=RonPaul

Tim Pawlenty (@TimPawlenty)- Though Pawlenty hasn’t built a following near the size of Gingrich or Palin, Pawlenty holds onto a Klout score of 69 and is still categorized as a “Thought Leader.” Unlike many of the other candidates, Pawlenty has made news for his tweets. His shot at Mitt Romney’s healthcare reform on Twitter caused quite a bit of buzz. Back in June he tweeted, “On seizing debate opportunity re: healthcare: Me 0, Mitt 1. On doing healthcare reform the right way as governor: Me 1, Mitt 0.” However, since the incident, Pawlenty has kept his feed noncontroversial and now primarily uses his tweets to map out his campaign trail.

Pawlenty’s twitter bubble can be found here: http://tweettopicexplorer.neoformix.com/#n=timpawlenty

Michele Bachmann (@TeamBachmann) – Bachmann ranks just below Pawlenty with a Klout score of 68, but falls into a separate category of “Broadcaster.” Despite only having a fraction of the followers that many of her competitors do, Bachmann arguably uses Twitter more effectively than most. She hosted her own Twitter town hall where people sent in questions using the hashtag #Michele. Her online network is an engaged group of supporters who help Bachmann spread her message.

Bachmann’s twitter bubble can be found here: http://tweettopicexplorer.neoformix.com/#n=TeamBachmann

Thaddeus McCotter (@ThadMcCotter) – McCotter ties Bachmann with a Klout score of 68. However, McCotter often falls into the same trap as Paul, tagging almost every tweet with both #tcot and #GOP. But despite his lower Klout score, McCotter is much better at connecting with followers on Twitter. He expands his twitter feed beyond politics, often discussing his favorite television shows and guitar playing with followers.

McCotter’s twitter bubble can be found here: http://tweettopicexplorer.neoformix.com/#n=ThadMcCotter
 
Rick Perry (@GovernorPerry) – Perry holds a Klout score of 67 and falling into the category of “Pundit.” Though Perry is not as active on Twitter as some of the candidates, he has made news for it. Back in February, Perry faced criticism from the media after blocking some reporters from viewing his tweets. He made news again in June, after publicly referring to the site as “the Tweeter.”

Perry’s twitter bubble can be found here: http://tweettopicexplorer.neoformix.com/#n=GovernorPerry

Rick Santorum-  Santorum nets a Klout score of 65. He isn’t as active on the site as his opponents, tweeting mostly about upcoming appearances instead of personal interests. He doesn’t seem to have grasped the influence Twitter can garner and still seems focused on Facebook as his main social media outlet.

Santorum’s twitter bubble can be found here: http://tweettopicexplorer.neoformix.com/#n=RickSantorum

Jon Huntsman (@Jon2012HQ)- Like Santorum, Huntsman doesn’t seem to have the Twitter platform figured out just yet. The Huntsman camp’s twitter account only earns a Klout score of 53. The account has a minimal numbers of followers, just over two thousand, the lowest of all the candidates. Tweeting over four times a day, his campaign account seems to only be useful as an aggregate for future Huntsman appearances and new blog posts. Huntsman does have a personal account, @JonHuntsman, that nets a Klout score of 63. Though higher than his campaign account, it is still low in comparison with the other candidates and it doesn’t seem that he has been able to use either account to effectively connect to his audience.

Huntsman’s twitter bubble can be found here: http://tweettopicexplorer.neoformix.com/#n=Jon2012HQ

A recent study of the 2010 midterm election by the University of Michigan (http://ur.umich.edu/1011/Jul25_11/2501-study-conservatives-top) showed that analyzing Twitter activity can help predict election results. Social media is now a key part of a candidate’s campaign strategy and the candidate’s ability to communicate effectively in 140-characters will be vital for the 2012 election cycle.


[1] Definition of a Pundit according to Klout: “You don’t just share news, you create the news. As a pundit, your opinions are wide-spread and highly trusted. You’re regularly recognized as a leader in your industry. When you speak, people listen.”

[2] Definition of a Thought Leader according to Klout- “You are a thought leader in your industry. Your followers rely on you, not only to share the relevant news, but to give your opinion on the issues. People look to you to help them understand the day’s developments. You understand what’s important and what your audience values that.”

[3] Definition of a Broadcaster according to Klout- “You broadcast great content that spreads like wildfire. You are an essential information source in your industry. You have a large and diverse audience that values your content.”

[4] Definition of a Specialist according to Klout- “You may not be a celebrity, but within your area of expertise your opinion is second to none. Your content is likely focused around a specific topic or industry with a focused, highly-engaged audience.”


Written By

Ashley Withers is a senior at Southern Methodist University studying journalism and criminal sociology. She is a part of the National Journalism Center and an intern at Human Events.

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