Today, we thought we'd use Facebook data to tackle one of the most anticipated decisions of 2012. Who will Mitt Romney choose as his running mate? And can Facebook data be used to help make the decision?
Data is great and all, but what good is data if you can't make decisions with it?
First, a little context. A number of studies have already shown that social media data is helpful to gauge voter sentiment:
- Crimson Hexagon analyzed Twitter data in 2010 to accurately predict a victory for Harry Reid.
- Social data (Twitter, Facebook, Google+) was also used to accurately predict Boris Johnson's victory in the London mayoral race last month (June 2012)
- Facebook themselves pointed out some correlations in the data as well following the 2010 US mid-term election. Candidates with more fans won Congressional races 74% of the time and Senate races 81% of the time. Not bad!
Now this field is not without detractors -- some academics have focused on the flaws in using social data to predict the future. We agree that Twitter data is dirty relative to Facebook data, as it's easier to create dummy accounts for Twitter and many people use Twitter primarily for marketing purposes and not to share what they're really doing/saying/thinking.
But it's also sour grapes in our opinion. Anything short of asking every single man, woman, and child is in essence a shortcut. There are going to be flaws in using data to make assumptions about the behavior of a large audience. There are flaws in traditional market research, statistical analysis, etc. This is no different -- in fact, it may be better.
With social data, we have the largest self-contributed data sets the world has ever seen... on par with the financial and personal data owned by major credit card companies (Visa, MasterCard, AmEx, etc.) and marketing companies (Acxiom, Dun & Bradstreet, and Harte Hanks). Additionally, people don't really have the motivation to falsify information here as they would perhaps when talking with a market research professional. Facebook is capturing the unvarnished truth of who everyone is.
As such, we think that Facebook data is the most accurate data set in the world. And it's relatively unmined at present.
Anyhow, we wanted to show an example of how reactions on Facebook can give decision-makers in politics a clear sense of who is "known", what they've done, and how they've managed to keep their supporters engaged. In that sense, politics is not that unlike what social marketers do all the time -- keep the brand front & center and something worth rallying around.
In this admittedly simplistic example, we looked at a number of factors in an attempt to narrow down the Field from a large number (8) to a top-priority running mate. We collected data on the following:
- Current Facebook Fan count
- Percentage of “Likes” over 5 quarters of posts
- Pro or negative “Romney” in page posts
- Pace of new Facebook fan acquisitions predicted between now and election day based on previous pace (how many new Friends per day)
- Polarization – the activity of each candidate on “pro” or “against” 3rd party Fan pages
Each of these things was selected in order to test something relevant for a national election. Is a candidate a national or regional candidate? Is a candidate doing a good job of keeping the base engaged? Is the candidate extending his/her reach to a broader base of enthusiastic supporters? Does the candidate create controversy or negative passion in other voters that might improve the prospects of the other political party?
The infographic is below. We'd love to know what you think. Also check out our YouTube video where we walk through the findings and explain the numbers in more detail.