The 2014 U.S. mid-term elections are upon us, and with candidates nationwide vying for Americans’ votes at the polls, it’s clear that political leaders are using a variety of different tactics to get in front of the public. In recent years, the use of social media to engage with voters has been on the rise, and our company took a look at the social presence of the two major political parties on Facebook to see how they compared.
To do so, we monitored the Facebook pages of the two main political parties in the U.S. from Sept,17, 2013, through Sept. 17, 2014. (For reference, these were the official pages of the Republican National Committee and the Democratic National Committee). What we found was that among the many differences between the posting strategies and fan bases of the two pages, there were also a number of similarities.
In terms of overall fan count, the GOP page has the edge over the Democratic Party page, with 1,580,988 fans versus the Democratic Party’s 853,643 (as of Sept. 17, 2014). At the same time, the Democratic Party did see a higher percentage of fan growth at 37% growth over the year as compared to the GOP’s 24%.
It’s notable to take a look at where these fans are based as well. The two pages appear to have significantly different shares of domestic versus non-U.S. based fans. While fans from the U.S. make up the obvious majority on both pages, we find that the Democratic Party has a higher percentage of non-local fans; the GOP page calls 97% — or 15,333,389 — of its fan base local U.S. fans, and the Democratic Party page finds just 84% — or 715,355 — local.
For both party pages, photos accompany the majority of the content they share. In fact, we took a look at the top 10 posts on each page throughout the year with regard to the total number of interactions received (likes, comments, and shares); we found that for both pages, every one of the top 10 performing posts included an image. Interestingly enough, posts celebrating birthdays for various political leaders performed exceedingly well, with 3 of the 10 top performing posts on each page wishing a happy birthday to figures for the respective parties.
Our data also shows an interesting array of top keywords for each page. Terms like “job,” “hope,” “people,” “work,” “employ,” “economy,” “health,” and “education” appeared among the most heavily used words on both pages. The keyword “Obama” appeared on posts for both pages frequently, but in different capacities; approximately 47% of the posts we monitored from the GOP page contained the word "Obama," while just 19% of those on the Democratic Party page did. (On a related note, 16% of the posts on the GOP page used the term "President" while 25% on the Democratic Party page did).
Neither party fell short on fan engagement either. Over the year, GOP page posts received nearly 13 million interactions (the sum of Likes, Comments, and Shares). For the same period, the Democratic Party’s posts neared 5.3 million total interactions. The GOP shared more content over the year as well, with a total of 1,190 page posts as compared to the Democratic Party's 605 page posts. The average number of interactions per post reached around 11,000 for the GOP and nearly 9,000 for the Democratic party.
On both pages, we find that Likes account for the highest percentage of interactions, followed by Shares and then Comments. With that said, the distribution of these interactions differs page to page. We see that on the Democratic Party page, 16.3% of interactions are Shares while 11.8% are Comments, as opposed to 13.4% and 9.8% on the GOP page, respectively.
As election season heats up, the social media strategies for both parties will evolve. And because 2014 appears to be the year of elections with about 42% of the world's population heading to the polls to cast their votes, we can expect to see social media continue to play a large part in politics worldwide. Pay close attention to the mid-term elections this year — I know I will!