Social media are a world unto themselves, especially when it comes to politics. Nowhere was that more evident than in the vice presidential debate last night in Danville, Ken. While the traditional media spent an inordinate amount of time discussing who won and who lost, social media yielded some interesting insights about voter interests and passions. I'd call it a triumph of substance over style and new media over traditional media. It serves as a case study for any enterprise examining the power of social networking.
The debate between Vice President Joseph Biden and Rep. Paul Ryan generated 4 million tweets, compared with the presidential debate a week earlier, which produced 10 million tweets. Of the four candidates, Biden received the most tweets -- both positive and negative. Ryan received the least, according to an analysis of tweet volume and voter sentiment.
If social mentions are any indication of voter engagement in this year's presidential election, the Obama campaign is pulling in a lot more interest than the Romney campaign. Starting on Monday and culminating with the debate, Biden was included in 393,472, or 71 percent, of the social mentions, while Ryan was included in 163,355, or 30 percent.
Compare that with the CNN poll in which 48 percent of respondents said Ryan won the debate, versus 44 percent who gave it to Biden. Or the CBS News poll of undecided voters who favored Biden by 50 percent to Ryan's 31 percent, with 19 percent calling it a tie. According to traditional media polls and the political pundits, it was a close horse race.
During the vice presidential debate, women drove the social conversation by generating 55 percent of the tweets. And the topics were serious: There were 72,000 tweets (32 percent of the overall Twitter volume) about the economy. Next came Medicare and entitlements, at 45,000 tweets (20 percent), and Afghanistan, at 25,000 (11 percent). Other trending topics included Libya, Iran, Syria, religion, and abortion. Surprisingly, taxes received only 15,000 tweets, or 7 percent of the social conversation.
The Facebook crowd also trended toward Biden, who received 400,000 mentions during the debate. By the end of the dustup, Biden had 719,000 Facebook mentions, while Ryan had 637,000, according to the Website AllFacebook. More Facebook-related election insights can be found here.
The debate engendered much anger and passion among the social crowd but also lots of humor and sarcasm. The night's top performance was by the TV talk show host Bill Maher, who tweeted: "Hello 911? There's an old man beating a child on my TV." That got a whopping 23,575 retweets.
And now it's on to the next presidential debate next Tuesday night. The always socially savvy Obama campaign has taken out a Twitter ad that pops up whenever you search on #debates, encouraging supporters and fence sitters alike to support Team Obama.
— Karyl Scott is a technology journalist based in San Diego, where she covers the intersection of mobile and social media, big-data, analytics, and business innovation.