At Engage, we’re huge believers in data. And oftentimes, the most interesting data is hidden in plain sight.
One of the huge shifts in online politics in recent years is the accountability and transparency imposed by public video view, follower, fan, and “like” counts on services like YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter. It’s really easy to tell who has the momentum by looking at these numbers obsessively and analyzing their growth. Granted, it is possible to “game” the numbers by purchasing Facebook ads or engaging in elaborate pump-and-dump follower schemes on Twitter, but there is usually some deeper truth the numbers are telling us about your brand or your candidate (whether it’s about organic momentum, or the hustle respective teams are showing in growing those numbers — which is notable in and of itself).
If a candidate or brand has a huge following, but relatively little engagement from users, that also tells a story. And that brings up an interesting contrast between the Facebook pages of two Presidents — George W. Bush and Barack Obama — seen as polar opposites in style and tech savvy.
President Bush is a relatively new entrant to Facebook, and in a few months has amassed 637,713 fans (at this writing) — a number that’s grown during his recent book tour.
One would expect that Obama’s following, at 26.8 times Bush’s, would lead him to absolutely dominate the 43rd President in “Like” counts. It is surprising how much that’s not the case.
To be sure, Obama still gets more “Likes” — but by nowhere near his lead in fans. On average, President Obama’s last 10 posts have been liked an average of 11,579 times, to Bush’s 6,655 times. That works out to more than 1% of Bush’s fan base interacting with his page on any given post. For President Obama, it works out to a pretty weak 0.07% fan interaction rate — and a 13-fold advantage for Bush on that score.
Nor is this a trend isolated to George W. Bush, who has seen a resurgence in the polls lately. The other Republican mega-brand on Facebook, Sarah Palin, also sports a much higher rate of fan interactions than Obama and comes close to besting him in raw “Like” counts — seeing an average of 9,444 Likes per post off a fan base of just over 2.5 million.
For comparison purposes, we also analyzed two of the most popular brands in raw numbers — Facebook itself (29,727,677 fans), and Starbucks (18,727,225 fans). They had predictably high “Like” numbers in a raw sense, but the rates of interaction were just below Obama’s at 0.05% apiece, showing that people are less likely to outwardly express an opinion about a product than a hotly debated public figure. The exceptions were posts that tapped into funny Internet memes (Facebook’s post about people changing their profile pictures to cartoon characters topping the list at 53,380 likes) or causes (Starbucks’ post about World AIDS Day at 20,245).
Other fun and/or interesting findings from this brief study:
- Content matters — with the most popular posts getting vastly more traction than the average post. For instance, Facebook’s post about Smurf avatars got 48 times the “like” love than its most recent post about their “STEM Video Contest.”
- Content perceived as self-promotional or directly commercial in nature tends to perform worst, particularly when it’s not coming “from” the principal. I’m a big fan of this White House update video, but my comment is aimed squarely at this.
- Photos > Text. President Bush’s two most popular posts, at 16,000 likes a piece, were fairly routine photo updates from his book stops. Ironically, videos didn’t see this much of a bump over the average, which confirms what I think is a common sense understanding of the popularity of photos on Facebook and how easy it is to interact with them, even when compared to video.
- Despite the current hue and cry from the left, Obama’s most “liked” posts come when he shows a more centrist face. Obama’s most recent post about a tax cut compromise at 17,518 likes and his showing of Commander-in-Chief chops by visiting Afghanistan, at 21,881 likes — did better than a base-pleasing post on the DREAM Act (8,116 likes).