Gingrich and Cain Face Buzz Challenges, Obama's Social Marketing Continues to Dominate

It’s obvious that anyone running for political office, especially presidential candidates, must have a strong online presence. Twitter, Facebook, and every other social networking tool under the sun must be used effectively by any public figure, hoping to get their message out to the masses. Barack Obama did this better than anyone else in 2008, and this year, it’s imperative for Republicans to harness the power of social media if they want to defeat Obama.

Every week, Zeta Interactive is releasing their weekly Presidential Election Digital Performance Report.  This will include comprehensive reporting and real-time analysis of the leading candidates’ performance across the online landscape.


The most noticeable trend this week was an overall drop in site traffic, which was likely attributed to the Thanksgiving Holiday. All candidates, including Obama, experienced notable decreases with the interesting exceptions of Romney, Paul, and Bachman. And while there appear to be some constant trends, such as Obama’s social media dominance, candidates need to realize that there are no “sure-things”.  Just like marketers have to constantly monitor, revise, and optimize their brands, so must these candidates. 

Here’s our latest update on the impact of the week’s activity:

•    Overall Traffic Drops:  Overall traffic to all candidate sites, including President Obama’s, was down a total 30.7% from the prior week, possibly due to the Thanksgiving holiday. However, Mitt Romney’s traffic actually increased 3.1% to 76,174 total visits in the face of this overall decrease, while Rick Perry dropped 51.1%, Herman Cain fell 49.4%, and even Obama’s traffic was down 39.1%. The average traffic decrease of the GOP candidates, excluding President Obama, was 11.5%.

•    Gingrich Buzz Drops After Controversial Debate: Following two consecutive weeks where Newt Gingrich saw his online tonal buzz rise to the #1 spot, Gingrich experienced a drop in his online ranking over the past week. As a potential result of Gingrich’s controversial stance on immigration, his tonal buzz dropped by more than 2.7% to 72% positive overall, and the words that were used most commonly to describe him online were “controversy”, “debate” and “immigration”.

•    Perry’s Buzz Improves, While Traffic Suffers: Rick Perry experienced the largest tonal buzz improvement of all GOP candidates over the past week, increasing from 62% to 66% positive. While the words “nice work” and “comeback” were featured among the most common to describe Perry in the past week, “needs work” and “long shot” were also included in that same group, illustrating that Perry is still a long way from recapturing the confidence of the online community. On the traffic front, Perry’s total site visits dropped a significant -51.1% to 24,282 over the prior week, representing the largest week over week decrease of any candidate in the last 3 weeks. 

•    Huntsman Capitalizes on Social Media Popularity: Jon Huntsman’s visitor traffic decreased overall, though his social media traffic doubled. His social media following experienced the largest percentage increase of Facebook and Twitter followers of all GOP candidates with a 4.6% increase in Twitter and a 4.4% increase in Facebook. With a tonal ranking of 73% positive Huntsman is the most positively buzzed GOP candidate in the race, however he still significantly trails the completion in overall buzz volume.  

•    Cain’s Traffic and Buzz Continues to Plummet:   Visitor traffic to Cain’s website continued its freefall last week dropping -49.4% to 23,761. This now places Cain in 6th place, behind Michelle Bachman. After seeing his tonal buzz drop to its lowest point last week, Cain experienced another severe drop this week in both tonal and volume categories. Cain’s tonal buzz dropped by 4.5% bringing it to a year-long low of only 64% positive, and his share of volume buzz plummeted 37.5% to 15% overall. With the most recent allegations, it can be expected that Cain will continue to face challenges.

•    Romney Buzz Drops as Competition Dominates Cluster Words:  Even as total GOP candidate traffic decreased -11.5%, Mitt Romney’s visitor traffic continued its steady march upward increasing 3.1% to 76,174. However, Romney’s buzz slipped over the past week as his tonal buzz ranking decreased from 70% to 66% positive. More so than any other candidate in the GOP race, Romney is currently being associated directly with his competition, as the words “Cain”, “Perry”, and “Gingrich” were all featured among the most popular used in posts to describe Romney last week.

•    Bachman and Paul’s Traffic Increases, Though Bachman’s Facebook Fans Un-Like:  Other than Romney, only Michelle Bachman and Ron Paul’s traffic increased week over week among GOP candidates, with Bachman’s nearly doubling and Paul’s up approximately 26%. While both candidates grew their Twitter followers, Bachman’s Facebook fan count has decreased over the last two weeks, which requires users to actively take steps to “un-Like” her page, a troubling indicator for her campaign.

•    Santorum Generating Insignificant Buzz As Traffic Nearly Halved: Rick Santorum is being viewed online as an intelligent candidate in the GOP race, with the words “like” and “smartest candidate” being used most commonly to describe him over the past week. However, at just 2% of the overall share of volume surrounding all GOP candidates, Santorum is not generating nearly the same amount of chatter in comparison to Romney and the other GOP frontrunners. Additionally his site traffic was nearly halved, down -47.9% over the prior week to 10,426.

•    Obama’s Social Media Engine Keeps Growing, Despite Large Traffic Decrease: When it comes to social media presence, President Obama again set the standard to which the GOP hopefuls aspire.  Obama’s Facebook following increased by 65,339 fans to nearly 24.2 million, and his Twitter following increased by 1.1% to 11.3 million. To put these numbers into perspective, if you added up all of the Twitter and Facebook followers of all GOP candidates combined, it would still be less than 50% of the following that Obama has secured through the years. These social media increases contrast to a traffic decrease of -39.1% or -473,493 visitors, a massive number, just slightly larger than the total of ALL visitors traffic to all GOP candidates’ sites combined.

Full analytical data is available upon request.

*Data referencing Site Visits was sourced from Experian Hitwise, Inc and analyzed by Zeta Interactive.

*Data referencing social buzz is sourced from Zeta Buzz, which monitors the online media landscape. Using an algorithm, the team is able to measure the volume and tone of conversations across the social media landscape.