Thursday, May 12, 2011

Newt Gingrich, Social Media, and the Run for the Presidency in 2012


The tweet announcing Newt Gingrich as a presidential candidate was, of course, short.

"Today I am announcing my candidacy for President of the United States. You can watch my announcement here."

One of the more interesting aspects of his announcement on Twitter was that it wasn't really news to anyone at that point. It was well publicized beforehand that Gingrich would be making it official on Twitter on May 11. Although that makes it more of a political stunt than a genuine announcement, he did manage to garner a lot of publicity.

With his past record being what it is, Gingrich will have to hope for any publicity to distract from his image in the mind of many Americans as a hypocrite and political opportunist. Who are other candidates, declared or undecided, that are using social media to shape their message?

President Barack Obama

As Barack Obama prepares for his re-election campaign, he will be looking to repeat the social media successes from his 2008 run. That strategy was made very clear when President Obama conducted a town hall meeting at Facebook headquarters during a three-day visit to the West Coast in April.

Gingrich has some significant catching up to do if he hopes to match the presence Obama has on Twitter. As of the time of his tweet announcement, @newtgingrich had about 1.3 million followers, while only following 222. At the same time, @BarackObama had nearly 8 million followers and was shown following almost 700,000.

Donald Trump

While it's not clear yet if he is making a presidential run or just running a circus sideshow, Donald Trump has a big social media footprint. Of course, social media can make one infamous as well as famous. President Obama roasted Trump at the White House Correspondents' Dinner, and the outtake easily upstaged Trump claiming credit for getting Obama to release his long-form birth certificate.

Trump did post big social media gains, however. In the week of April 20 through 27, Trump picked up 18,617 new Twitter followers and 12,644 new Facebook fans. On Twitter, @realDonaldTrump now has about 570,000 followers. He follows 11, and they include Trump's family and business.

Sarah Palin

The queen of social media may or may not be running for president, but can hardly be denied her crown. Her following on Twitter is smaller by comparison to the three mentioned above, at just over 513,000. Still, @SarahPalinUSA is used very effectively to keep her in the news.

In fact, she leads all potential GOP candidates when it comes to garnering news mentions, even though she has not announced. And Palin on Facebook has nearly 3 million "likes." Her notoriety comes more from what she says than how many she says it to, however.

When she tweeted "show photo as warning to others seeking America's destruction. No pussy-footing around, no politicking, no drama; it's part of the mission," she made sure she was in the debate concerning Osama bin Laden's death photos.

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