Social Marketing from Democrats and Republicans

Social Technographics of Voters
Above: The Social Technographics of Voters, read Josh Bernoff’s Analysis which further segments the behaviors of McCain vs Obama supportersa

In this post, I’m going to make some observations from my network, but my only caveat is, this is not representative of the whole tech industry. First, we should ask some questions about what I’m seeing:

Does the Social Media Space tend to skew Democratic?
I’ve noticed for some time that the web industry tends to skew very liberal and democratic, you certainly see elements of this within Digg, for example, I did an advanced query of dugg (voted) stories that got on the front page, (title only) and McCain has 42 pages (many stories are negative), and “Obama” has 65 pages (mixed bag of content).

Does sentiment tell us much?
Yet frequency isn’t telling, and sentiment is. Last night, I asked the community around me in Friendfeed to list out three keywords what come to mind in this association test for both parties. You can read the Republican, and Democratic responses –nearly opposite.

Update: I’ve asked my Friendfeed network to think about why there’s strong liberal sentiment in FF, read their responses.

Why does the social space (or at least my network) tend to skew so left? It could be a number of factors from age, willingness to adopt change, or that the ideology of the very social web in it’s essence could be core to liberal beliefs. In fact, if you read a book on blogging or social media marketing, you could quickly transplant the words “company” for “government” and the book would still read very logically.

Is it because there may be many Republicans in Silicon Valley?
Yet despite this lean from the left within my social media network, I do remember during the last election that a great deal of republican votes came from the Silicon Valley. I remember my friends who worked at NASA, Boeing, Lockheed, that were strongly encouraged by their management to vote Republican, as it would increase the eventual spending in the aerospace and hi-tech sector. Many of these companies have large headquarters in the Mountain View area, with thousands of companies supporting this eco-system, in fact read this 2004 article from the last election which profiles ‘sheepish republicans’ in Silicon Valley, it’s an interesting mix here in the valley as while folks make swing left in ideology, many are very wealthy.

Is it adoption of Obama and McCain Social Media?
Not all is lost by the Republicans in this space, this article by Techpresident (Which is indexing and commenting on the the digital marketing efforts of each candidate) suggests that even though Obama may have a grass roots lead within social media and dedicated staff (including Facebook co-founder), McCain’s supporters could master the tide by creating an API and encouraging the movement to create their own applications.

Or is it speed of adoption of these tools?
If speed is any type of indicator of adoption of social marketing, McCain just launched their online community on the campaign domain, called McCain Space, Yet Obama’s campaign has been up and running with MyBarackObama for some time.

So what is it that fuels the social media space to appear to be more active for the Democrats vs the Republicans? Let’s focus on data:

Some Answers May Lie with the Technographics of Voters (see above graphic)
In Josh’s analysis, he points out that the tendency to Join (be in a social network) between Obama supporters and McCain supporters is nearly a margin of 13%, which isn’t a lot but given that across the board Obama members are more particiaotpry in soical technographics than McCain supporters they’re more able to energize their base. Perhaps the most telling is the Spectator behavior, which indicates which support group is more likely to consume citizen created content. Nearly tho-thirds of Obama, (59%) consume social content, and less than half of McCain (44%) supporters will consume social content, a margin that straddles the half way mark.

Data about overall existing behaviors of users (technographics) are perhaps a key indicator that demonstrates why one party may have an advantage in social marketing.

In typical internet humor, a meme called “Little known facts about Sarah Palin” continues to spread throughout twitter. Given her largely unknown background, the twittersphere has had fun creating her background for her.

The above is just cursory observations, had I more time I would love to do a more formal study on this specific vertical, maybe in four years.

  • Imagine if a presidential candidate of either party had hired the CTO of Netscape just after it launched. The web might have been a different place, and as successive innovations came into being, they would reflect that bias.

    My.BarackObama.com grew organically and in many ways its growth closely parallelled its corporate sibling. To the extent that your coverage focuses on social networking, it is no surprise that the political leanings of those involved in the first iteration of social networks so closely mirrors the aspirations and judgments of the Democratic party.

    Thoughts of an API are great but miss the mark in terms of how the GOP apparatus works. I’d refer you to David All who is a thought leader for the GOP.

  • Interesting content from you and Josh. It’s funny that McCain raised $1M after NH primary victory in 2000. Lost opportunity from the candidate that doesn’t use the killer app in social networking – eimail 😉
    BTW – http://www.technologyreview.com/obama has great look at social networking team and tech behind MyBarackObama site.

  • Brian

    Thanks, this is interesting,yes I’d love to talk to David All.

  • David All is great. Definitly a thought leader in this area. We’re a recently angel backed firm specializing in this area.we have a new blog at http://realpolitix.com. We’re covering some of the GOP convention right now.

  • It may simply be that democrats are more active online overall. The Web democratizes information and access. By allowing anyone to have a strong or equal voice, it empowers everyone (not just big corporations). That’s not exactly what Republicans want, or are tuned into.

  • The social technographics lens is great for a lot of things. But for the purposes of what you seem to be analyzing, I think you need to consider Email, (where content and sentiment are not tracked; at least without violating privacy concerns), and offline. Assuming the technographics ladder is correct and such, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

    It’s quite conceivable that those who are older, (or it could be a Republican thing, or both, I’ve no idea), already have a variety of social networks. Perhaps deeper long standing networks than those that have popped up in the past 5 years or so. Things like Rotary Clubs, Volunteer Fire/Ambulance Squads, PTA’s, etc. I’m not saying these necessarily skew Republican or older. I really don’t know. But they might. (Personally, my more right leaning friends seem to be sending stuff via Email. Which is also harder to counter since whatever those cartoons or claims might be, they’re not public fodder.)

    What I am saying is that we in this industry have to take care to understand that just because someone doesn’t have a Facebook page doesn’t mean they’re not engaged in their own social graphs of various sorts. (Again I mention Email. I believe we do know that younger may be abandoning Email a bit for FunWalls and IM and such. But their parents still use Email plenty.) I fully realize your original question likely intended to focus online. And that you started with the caveat about your perspective from your own network.

    Still, I feel compelled to suggest the offline aspect of social networking because of the underlying reason you seem to be asking in the first place. You said, “Yet frequency isn’t telling, and sentiment is.”

    The election isn’t going to be held on Twitter. And I’m not sure there’s a direct mapping of the technographics ladder to propensity to vote. (Though there may be some this time around given given online efforts to activate by Dems probably have been more effective then Republians.)

    So, finally, my point is to be very careful of how such data is used. In Josh’s post, he seems to conclude that with Republican’s at 16% “Creator” level, this is a weak showing. Yes, the research has voting propensity results for “Inactives” for whatever snapshot time the polls were taken. But does Social Technographics account for the guy who’s speaking in the 15,000 local American Legion posts? Or 8,000 VFW posts? And so on? There may be a ton of people that have plenty of influence that just doesn’t happen to be along the lines of force this model is looking at.

  • Scott

    Point taken. The title of the post: “Social Marketing” implies usage of social media tools, and our social technographics doesn’t include email, im, cell phones or verbal discussions at the coffee shop.

    The technographics doesn’t account for the “account for the guy who’s speaking in the 15,000 local American Legion posts? Or 8,000 VFW posts” but you can bet with a sample size of 8 or 15k they’ll be using social media tools –furthering the messages using social tools.

    Therefore, we agree, they’re both tied.

  • Interesting topic. I’ve always wondered why Republicans rarely (if ever) organize or participate in large scale protests/marches. Could there be a thread that connects social media behavior with physical/large group behavior? I think so, but I could only speculate.

  • Tom, that’s interesting, cept there are some very conservative wacko’s that do indeed march for strange (and sometimes hateful) marches.

  • Tom Cummings

    I’m curious how many people will move up the ST ladder because of these elections. I wonder how many people will read their first blog, post their first youtube vid, or sign up for text message alerts for the first time because of wanting the most up-to-date info on their candidate, then get hooked on that medium.

    In other words, i’m less interested in why the current social world skews towards one party (i think age is a big factor there) than i am in the idea that this election cycle may alter the social media landscape as we head towards 2009/10.

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  • Tom

    Good thoughts, (as usual). Perhaps we may see activity in the collectors and critic behaviors before they jump right onto the creator.

    On the other hand, I’ve had this conversation with several brands who want to change the behavior of their customers to move ‘up the ladder’. I had to tell them, it’s very unlikely, as they are influenced by their peers –not brands (or in this case political parties.

    Therefore, you’ll have to factor in their affiliations, expecting them to rise up the ladder isn’t yet a reality that I’ve seen.

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  • This is related: an article about how Digg’s bias is liberal

    http://www.pbs.org/mediashift/2008/09/social_news_fracasdigg_puts_fo.html

  • Having read the Forrester brief on the DNC bloggers, perhaps we are looking at the wrong KPI. It would be interesting to do a time series analysis of actual events, official campaign emails/tweets/SMS, traffic, and dollars generated.

    As you noted in an earlier tweet, there aren’t many media in which people donate money to increase marketing…unless you think of political fundraising as being akin to payola, where entities pay to get more exposure for their messages.

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