Candidate FaceTime: Measuring Presidential Contenders' Web-Wide Efforts

The rise in popularity of social networking and video sharing websites in the years since the last US presidential election has created a myriad of new ways for candidates to reach and engage voters. The leading candidates all have, for example, MySpace and facebook profiles, flickr pages, and their own YouTube channels. Combined, the candidates have posted over 2,500 videos to their YouTube channels since January.

As candidates’ move beyond the walls of their official websites, traditional metrics used in past elections to track the effectiveness of their online efforts (e.g. page views and unique visitors to a campaign’s website) have been rendered largely obsolete as they report on only a slice of an ever-expanding pie. There has yet to be a single, simple means for comparing the candidates across all of these leading sites.

That changes today. Compete is proud to unveil Candidate FaceTimeTM, offering a holistic, web wide means of measuring how well the candidates are using all of these channels to get "face time" with voters. Harnessing the depth and breadth of Compete’s 2 million member US panel, the metric quantifies the total amount of time voters spend online with candidates each month. Every minute counts in this race as every minute spent with a candidate is one less minute that might have been spent with a rival.

The table below shows each candidate’s FaceTime in October, their share of their party’s FaceTime, and the percentage of all hours spent with a candidate that occurred on his or her official website. Below the table are trended charts comparing each candidate’s share of monthly FaceTime since January.

Findings:

  • While long claimed by his supporters, the extent of Ron Paul’s online support is finally and clearly evident with this data. In total, voters spent nearly 170,000 hours learning about, connecting with and supporting Paul in October. While that was more the Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton combined, more striking during the looming primary contests is that Paul’s total was more than all of the other GOP candidates combined. Over a quarter of Paul’s FaceTime occurred on meetup.com, a testament to his supporters’ determination to marshal their online momentum into off-line action.
  • Aside from Ron Paul, Mitt Romney was the only other leading candidate from either party to get more than 40% of his total FaceTime on sites other than his official website in October. One area where Romney is leading all candidates is in the number of videos posted on Youtube; 452 at last count.
  • Fred Thompson missed his opportunity to capitalize on the momentum he had early in the summer, when his FaceTime was growing, when he delayed entering the race. After announcing his candidacy in September, Thompson’s FaceTime careened 73% in October when his campaign stumbled out of blocks and GOP voters, in search of a conservative favorite, kicked Thompson’s tires and apparently moved on.
  • Mike Huckabee was the GOP flavor-of-the-month in October and benefited the most from Thompson’s struggles. Huckabee’s FaceTime surged 92% in October, pulling from Thompson, Romney and Rudy Giuliani who all saw drops in their time with voters.
  • Compared with the fluid GOP race, the Democratic contest has been very consistent in terms of FaceTime, with little movement among the candidates. Barack Obama leads all rivals and has steadily drawn roughly 38% of all Democratic FaceTime since March. It will be interesting to see next month whether Obama or John Edwards can capitalize on Hillary Clinton’s recent stumbles and get voters to spend more time considering them as viable alternatives.
  • Candidates who are struggling to get FaceTime with voters are also having difficulty raising enough money to compete in the race. Sam Brownback dropped out of the contest last month after drawing the least FaceTime among the GOP rivals for months. Could candidates such as Ton Tancredo, Duncan Hunter, Chris Dodd and Bill Richardson be next? Dodd and Hunter, like Brownback, have been largely unsuccessful at reaching voters beyond their own websites.
About Matt Pace:
As VP of Retail and Consumer Products at Compete, Matt Pace is responsible for leading a team of client services professionals who deliver digital intelligence and insights to clients in the retail and consumer packaged good industries. Before Matt joined the Compete Team he was a CPA and senior auditor with Deloitte & Touche. Follow Matt on Twitter @mattpace.

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