How to follow the election on social media

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Twitter proved its usefulness during the presidential debates, offering fact-checking, instant spin and sentiment analysis in real time. But the sheer glut of information shared during those debates — nearly 160,000 tweets per minute, totaling more than 10 million tweets about the first debate — also proved Twitter’s newfound political popularity, resulting in complaints that the firehose of tweets was just too strong to follow, much less register any real information.

On Election Day in 2008, there were 1.8 million tweets; now that many tweets are sent every six minutes, according to Twitter. To help slow down that stream, Twitter has launched an Event Page to curate the most relevant tweets about the election at Twitter.com/hashtag/election2012. The Twitter team will be monitoring stats throughout the day, and some of those interesting trends will be reflected on Twitter's Twindex, which ought to indicate whether one policy issue defines the day.

“We believe that in addition to last-second persuasion tweets, you’ll see a lot of ... ‘get out the vote’ activity. Twitter has proven to be a remarkable crowd-building tool around the world and I think we’ll see something similar on Election Day here in the U.S.,” Peter Greenberg, Twitter’s head of political advertising, told The Hill in September. “It will be interesting how the campaigns use Twitter for any sort of voting irregularities and any sort of disputes at polling locations. You will see that in real time.”

When it comes to actually voting, Foursquare, Facebook and Instagram want to make that a more social process, too. Facebook is reminding users that it's Election Day with a banner that appears on top of their news feeds. The banner is interactive, and when users click that they voted, it will update a real-time map that shows where Facebook members are voting.  

Foursquare is also updating its election app at election.foursquare.com with real-time check-ins by users at polling locations nationwide. Both are a digital form of the "I voted!" sticker many voting locations still use.

The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times have asked readers to upload election-related photos on Twitter or Instagram with the tags #WSJvote or #NYTelection. Both papers are dropping their pay walls for Election Day and are promising to feature some user photos on their websites. 

First lady Michelle Obama understands the power of social as well, and over the past month has encouraged families to take their kids with them to the voting booth, snap a photo and share it. 

On Tuesday, it’s the act of pulling a lever or punching a hole that matters, but Twitter mentions might offer a clue of what's going on in the voting booth.

Socialbakers will be updating their cheer meterwith information on which candidate is getting the most mentions on Twitter and Instagram. Similarly, Hootsuite's new Command Center tracks sentiment and mentions of not only candidates but their running mates and potential first ladies.

Since the president's campaign is paying to promote a trend on Twitter all day, that could help give Obama the edge in mentions.

Salesforce also has a chart tracking popular topics of conversation related to the campaign that is updated in real time.

And PoliPulse, a project working with data analysis from Crimson Hexagon, tracks influential tweets about each candidate, typically a good way to flag news tidbits or high-profile criticism getting the widest exposure and highest number of re-tweets on Twitter. 

Watching some of these charts will be a good way to stay organized and in the loop on what looks to be a busy day on social media.