A guest post by Roy J. Wells, President of Triad Strategies
Yesterday I saw a news story posted on WCSH6, the NBC affiliate in Portland, Maine explaining how Maine’s gubernatorial candidates were turning to social media. Given my interest (some would say obsession) in social media and its impact on advocacy and politics, I decided to take a closer look at a few of the candidates (having no idea who the top candidates were I only looked at the ones quoted in the story). These are the things I do when buried under two feet of snow.
The Republicans, Les Otten, Bruce Poliquin, and Steve Abott had 1,485, 1,033 and 111 Facebook Fans or Friends and 303, 1,529 and 111 Twitter Followers, respectively. The Democrat, Rosa Scarcelli, had 361 Facebook Fans and 585 Twitter Followers. I did not think these numbers were all that impressive. When you look at the numbers in absolute terms, they are considerably less than the numbers being put up by Pennsylvania’s gubernatorial candidates.
But then it dawned on me that there is huge difference in the respective populations of Maine and Pennsylvania. According to the US Census Bureau, as of July 2008, Pennsylvania’s population was 12.45 million while Maine’s population was 1.32 million. To give you a point of reference, Philadelphia’s population was 1.54 million as of 2009. So, if you look at the numbers based on the percent of population, Maine’s candidates are significantly ahead of their Pennsylvania counterparts in their use of social media.
Les Otten’s 1,485 Fans represent .113% of Maine’s population. Sam Rohrer, who was leading all Republican gubernatorial candidates with 2,412 Fans when I last looked, had only .019% of Pennsylvania’s population. If he had the same percentage as Les Otten, he would count over 14,000 Fans.
Rosa Scarcelli’s 361 Fans represent .027% of Maine’s population. Joe Hoeffel’s Fans numbered 1,397, or .011% of Pennsylvania’s population. If Congressman Hoeffel had the same percentage of the population as Rosa Scarcelli, he would have 3,414 Fans.
If you haven’t guessed, I like to play around with numbers (you can never take the budget analyst out of the boy). Though it is fun to compare numbers, the real value in these networks is the quality of your political Fans. For instance, are they likely voters? Are they influential in their own networks? Not everyone’s Fans are either residents or registered voters, which makes these metrics are a little harder to assess, though not impossible.
What is easy to assess, however, is if you do not have a strategy for growing and using these new communications channels you will not benefit from the opportunities they can create. At the time that Senator Scott Brown delivered his acceptance speech, he had 70,800 Facebook Fans or 1.09% of Massachusetts’ population. A comparable number of Facebook Fans for a statewide candidate in Pennsylvania would be 135,633.
And right now, not a single gubernatorial candidate in Pennsylvania is even in that particular ballpark. The Official Motto for the State of Main is "Dirigo" which means "I lead." In this case, nothing could be more true.