NOTE: This is the fourth post in a special Capitol Tweets post-election series.
Though the presidential campaign captured the majority of social media traffic and attention during the 2012 elections, some Congressional races across the country were not far behind. Unlike the presidential campaigns, Congressional incumbents and hopefuls didn’t hire hundreds of professionals to manage their digital media marketing, nor did they spend millions on Facebook and Twitter ad buys. However, the most successful candidates did recognize social media’s ability to connect them with voters, amplify their messaging and get constituent feedback in real-time.
In the aftermath of the election, Politico reported that “eight out of nine Senate races considered to be toss ups this year were won by the candidate with the more engaged Facebook fan base… And in 11 of the 15 competitive House races where incumbents lost on Tuesday, the challenger enjoyed an engagement advantage over the incumbent.” Though the electoral success rate cannot be entirely credited to social media use, it is more apparent than ever that candidates who embrace innovative digital tactics are more likely to boost name recognition and remain relevant in both national and local races.
Among incumbents, the three Members of Congress selected as MVPs this campaign season were by no means novices in the social media sphere. These Members’ official accounts were featured in last year’s Capitol Tweets report and ranked high in all four TweetLevel categories – Influence, Engagement, Popularity and Trust. Their digital chops were evident on the campaign trail as well.
- Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) launched a series of social media giveaways through his “Team Boehner” Facebook and Twitter accounts. These giveaways ranged from iPads to t-shirts, and encouraged social fans to post and engage with his accounts throughout the campaign season.
- In a close race against challenger and outgoing Rep. Todd Akin, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) capitalized on the organic, negative conversation after Akin’s comments about “legitimate rape.” Sen. McCaskill launched a series of ads on Twitter, Google and Bing that displayed whenever users searched for Akin, reminding voters of his “anti-women campaign” and linking to her online donation page.
- Following the popularity of President Barack Obama’s Ask Me Anything (AMA) on Reddit, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) hosted his own AMA resulting in more than two thousand comments from participants, including submissions from his district constituents.
Among the 12 Senators and 67 Representatives joining the 113th Congress, two freshman Senators stood out as “Social Media MVPs” this campaign season. The Sens.-elect featured below were identified due to their widespread presences on various social platforms, active engagement strategies, and against-the-odds successes.
- Sen.- elect Ted Cruz (R-Texas)- During the primary season, Cruz launched one of the most successful, online grassroots Congressional campaigns to date. His opponent, David Dewhurst, outspent Cruz three to one, but Cruz walked away with 57 percent of the vote. Cruz’s digital efforts culminated in ten times more followers than his opponent on Facebook, a successful blogger outreach program, YouTube video stunts, online ads, and geo-targeted updates among other initiatives. In the words of Politico reporter Steve Freiss, “For all the hype surrounding social media in campaigns, Cruz is among the first American examples of a dark horse candidate who rode to victory by tapping into the vast power of Facebook, Twitter, blogs and email.”
- Sen.-elect Elizabeth Warren (D- Mass.)- Warren’s vigorous social engagement strategy throughout her campaign stood in stark contrast to her now defeated competitor, outgoing Sen. Scott Brown. In what many considered to be a toss-up election, Warren’s smaller but mightier digital presence pushed her campaign effort over the edge to a decisive Election Day victory. Analysis conducted by strategists Matthew MacWilliams and Edward Erikson discovered that on Election Day, Warren had more than 100,000 Facebook fans engaging with her page. In contrast, her opponent Brown only attracted around 45,000 engagements. In an election that was only separated by 200,000 votes, this edge in social media engagement could be considered a large contributing factor to Warren’s Election Day victory.
These incumbents and freshmen being sworn into the 113th Congress next month have demonstrated the vast power and influence that digital media can have in a campaign’s success. Sens.-elect Cruz and Warren are two social media powerhouses that should be monitored closely as they rise to their new roles in the Senate. It will be interesting to see how their digital strategies evolve as their social properties transition from campaign to official, Congressional accounts starting Jan. 21. Stay tuned.