Social Media Influence and the GOP Debate: Do They Go Hand in Hand?

Business.com / Social Media / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

What exactly do social media and the GOP Debate have to do with one another? Depends who you ask, but the data speaks for itself.

If you still need to be convinced of the power of social media, look no further than last week's GOP debate. 

The first Republican GOP debate was co-sponsored by the one and only Facebook, and each time a candidate spoke, a blue box with a white "f" was shown behind them. Social media is going to be a huge part in this election, as already demonstrated by the candidates presence on the major networks and the aforementioned Facebook play. The candidate's teams ensured that their social media channels remained extremely active, especially before, during and after the debate, so that the candidates can reach as many potential voters as possible. 

When looking at this debate and social media, the main questions we sought to answer are: how exactly is this data measured, how can we interpret it and does it even really mean anything?

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Data Breakdown

During the event, Facebook data revealed that 7.5 million users throughout the U.S. made 20 million interactions in the form of posts, shares, likes and comments about the debate. With this many people coming together to discuss one particular event, it is no surprise that many are interested in what it all means.

Twitter Government Gop Debate Ranking

This data is not only being broken down in a multitude of ways, but it is also being interpreted in just as many. Below is Fox News' breakdown of Facebook interactions (mentions, likes and comments) before the debate. They go on to further segment the engagement data by age, location, and topic. 

From this, candidates can get a multitude of valuable feedback and insights. For instance, it shows how Donald Trump dominated the U.S. everywhere except Michigan, where Scott Walker took the lead. It also shows each states top five candidates and its most talked about issues.

The key takeaway here is that people are engaged in the conversation more than ever, and their voice is out there for the candidates to listen to and learn from.

Related Article: People Are Talking, Are You Listening? The Importance of Social Media Monitoring

How Can We Interpret This Data?

Engagementlabs took a look at Facebook and Twitter before and after the debate to see how each candidate performed. By measuring engagement, impact and responsiveness, they came to the conclusion that each candidates’ positions on social media was greatly affected by the debate.

Here are the rankings:

engagementlabs GOP debate social media breakdownpost-debate engagementlabs data

Their interpretation of the data shows if a given candidate made an impact on America or if they failed to gain traction with voters. Engagementlabs also observed that, "as things heated up during the televised debate, Mr. Trump managed to hold his top spot and increased his eValue score on Twitter, while Marco Rubio overtook his Republican competitor and came out number one on Facebook."

Breaking down engagement data in the election process can show where strengths and weaknesses lie, what is striking a chord with the community and who is no longer relevant in the public eye.

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Does This Data Even Mean Anything?

We can all agree that social media has been and will continue to have an impact on this election. But, how so? After all, it can be a challenge to accurately measure the sentiment of many of the social interactions.

@monkeycageblog tweet

Can we really gauge the level of influence a candidate has on social media to their actual ranking in the election? The Washington Post argues no, because social media statistics have not been around as long as polling data or other prediction metrics. While others, like PRWeekly, feel that social media "is both an indicator of sentiment and part of the fabric of political reporting." Whatever the case, people are talking on social media, and there's value in listening. 

Overall, we can agree that the social media narrative can be completely shaped by public and pundit opinion, which in return can shape a voters opinion and end vote in the election. Good or bad, social media is part of this election.

Can social media really be a measure of performance? Tweet us your thoughts @businessdotcom.

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