Facebook Likes, Comments Predict Presidential Hopefuls

If search engines can provide insight into the popular vote based on keywords and searches, then social networks can offer predictions on winners and losers among Democratic and Republican candidates. Taking a tip from calculating earned media for ad campaigns on Facebook, Socialbakers created metrics based on Likes, sentiments in comments, and interactions to identify the candidates most likely to win at the polls.

Socialbakers’ social media analytics tracked more than 10 million Facebook Pages and Places, and billions of individual user interactions through December to measure engagement and changes in online candidate popularity. The research on Facebook provides insight into what drives engagement, influence and conversations for all eight Democratic and Republican presidential political candidates.

"Viral Reach," determined by Socialbaker as Likes and comments multiplied by the average number of friends per Facebook user, suggests that Ron Paul holds the highest overall with 59,554 comments this past week. Rick Perry had the most engaging single-post among candidates, followed by Jon Huntsman and Newt Gingrich.

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President Barack Obama's most engaging post was a family portrait, yet it holds the lowest overall engagement rate compared with other candidates. Ron Paul increased the engagement rate by 69% in the past week, followed by a near tie between Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich at 58% and 57%, respectively. The engagement rate for Rick Santorum fell by 7%.

When it came to person-to-person interactions among Facebook users, Michelle Bachmann led, followed by Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman. Obama held the lead with 50% of the total interactions. Ron Paul took the top spot for the Republican Party with 19%, between two and three times higher compared with Mitt Romney and Rick Perry.

Obama also leads with 24 million Fans; followed by Mitt Romney at 1.3 million; Ron Paul with 672,483; and Michelle Bachmann with 460,336. Rick Santorum had the fastest growth during the past 30 days with 23% growth, surpassing Jon Huntsman's 18% growth.

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