Nearly five times as many people posted about Obama as did about Romney in May, according to the survey. Since Facebook allows users to tag people and branded pages in posts, tracking this metric is a useful way to see who is being “talked about” on the social media platform, which has about 900 million active users.
In addition, Obama gained four and one-half times as many new fans as Romney in May, currently putting him at 27,003,360 Facebook “likes” compared to Romney’s 1,882,065. The disparity in followers for the two men is similar on Twitter, YouTube and Google Plus, although Obama’s lead can be partially dismissed by the fact that he is the incumbent and had a strong head start on Romney.
The study also found that Obama’s viral outreach is about 25 percent stronger than Romney’s. The ability to go viral is one of social media’s greatest contributions to a political campaign, as it exponentially increases the reach of an advertisement or an update and creates momentum through association with friends.
"We've long known that the most powerful thing in determining how you'll be influenced to vote is a recommendation from a friend," Patrick Ruffini, president of the Republican online consulting firm Engage, told NPR last month. "And the ability to see in your Facebook news stream somebody taking action on behalf of a campaign who's a trusted connection of yours is something that everybody who's going to be active this year is going to want to look to harness."
Rezab also noted that the study found “the most engaging posts among all the candidates were the least confrontational," for instance pointing to the most popular — in both “likes” and shares — post from any presidential candidate, which was by neither Obama nor Romney. Ron Paul, a veteran of social media success, posted a photo of his wife and himself on their 55th wedding anniversary in February that earned more than 68,000 'likes' and was shared by nearly 4,000.
Obama’s lead on Romney in this area has potential for a much stronger influence over the election than just who is popular on social media.
An April 2012 comScore study also found that Obama has leveraged his Facebook audience— which skews younger, with 60 percent under 35 — into a small donor base. Facebook fans and friends donated at a rate 2.5 times that of non-social supporters between October 2011 and February 2012, the study found, although their donations were slightly smaller, a distinction that might be partially explained by the age group. Small donors contributing $200 or less accounted for almost half of the money Obama’s campaign raised in 2011, according to the Campaign Finance Institute, a percentage totaling $156 million.