The Social State Of The Union

  • by , Op-Ed Contributor, January 29, 2015

President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address is social media red meat. Quotes from the speech, commentary on it, and hot takes of every shape and size were everywhere on Facebook and Twitter. 

The Engagement

Facebook and Twitter saw a huge influx of engagement during the State of the Union. On Facebook alone during the day of the address, 5.7 million people made nearly 14 million interactions (calculated by likes, posts, comments, and shares) related to the address.

On Twitter, we tracked tweets related to the State of the Union by monitoring for certain hashtags and keywords (#SOTU, #SOTU2015, State of the Union, #Obama, etc.). From Jan. 20 through the 21, we counted 393,000 total tweets about the State of the Union. The height of this tweeting occurred during the address itself, with about 242,000 tweets around 9 and 10 pm EST.

The Audience

Generation X was particularly interactive during this State of the Union address. Women aged 35-49 made up the top demographic by Facebook engagement around the event, followed by men of the same age bracket. The third most engaged group was Millennial men — men aged 18-34 — followed by Millennial women, and then men 50 and over.

While the buzz around the State of the Union spanned across the nation, the South saw a particularly high amount of engagement during the address, with three of the top five states by Facebook engagement coming from the south. North Carolina led with the most engagement, followed by Pennsylvania, Texas, Wisconsin, and South Carolina. Note the electoral significance of these numbers. 

Both Texas (Rick Perry) and Wisconsin (Scott Walker) are home to aspiring 2016 Republican presidential contenders, South Carolina is home to an important early Republican primary, and Pennsylvania is a key national battleground state. 

The Most Popular Political Issues

The most viral moment of the address goes to Obama’s joke when he said, “I have no more campaigns to run,” followed shortly after with, “I know, ’cause I won both of ’em.” This was seen as a dig by the GOP, and many viewers took to Facebook and Twitter to share their thoughts on Obama’s statement.

Aside from Obama’s joke, economic issues were at the forefront of the social conversation. On Facebook, the economy and jobs ranked as the most discussed issue around the address. The second was community college as a result of Obama’s discussion of his stance on tuition (which he unveiled exclusively on Facebook in advance of the State of the Union), followed by taxes, the minimum wage, and the middle class. 

On Twitter, we tracked that “community college” was the most-mentioned topic in tweets related to the State of the Union, with a total of 10,145 tweets including the keyword. 9,780 related tweets included the keywords “economy” or “economic.” Interestingly, Twitter users also discussed the environment heavily, with 8,105 related tweets including the term “climate change.”

Every election will be more social than the last. As the race for the White House heats up, it’s clear that voters are already discussing the issues and engaging with campaigns on social. Beyond the intrigue of a presidential election, it will be interesting to see how political parties and campaign organizations use social to both reach out to voters and to track what those voters are discussing.

Barack Obama’s successful 2008 campaign was the first to really harness the true potential of digital outreach. Eight years on, social media, how it’s measured, and how campaigns and interest groups use that information have all come a long way. The era of the social media election has arrived.

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