Finding the “Real Romney” on social media

The task for this week’s assignment was a social media analysis of the online channels, the content, types of message the Romney campaign is using. The students had to evaluate what insights they can gain from the observed social media interactions. A key question was: Does the use of social media create a social connection to the candidate. One of the take-aways was that the campaign site focuses mostly on mainstream social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook (at the top of the page), and lists other social media accounts hidden at the bottom of the page.

The messages are mostly “me, me, me”-messages pointing to appearances, overshadowed by opposing issue statements directly attacking Barack Obama: There are more tweets starting with .@barackobama than regular tweets and there are almost no interactions with other users. Highly focused on the mission and a very coherent message. Overall however the students did not feel connected to the candidate himself.

Until one of the students pointed to Romney’s Pinterest account that include behind the scenes videos posted by his family, talking about Romney – but never featuring himself. A big social media misstep and missed opportunity by the campaign.

Author and biographer, Michael Kranish, Boston Globe, points to this radio show recorded in 2007 in his book “The Real Romney“. While the book does not supply the URL to the video, it has made the rounds online.

I showed the video in class today – perfect timing after the #47Percent video was leaked earlier this week by Mother Jones and the class assignment to understand the “Real Romney”. Besides the content, it is remarkable how Romney changes to a PR pro from one second to another – and the viewers can only get a glimpse of his personality when he thinks he is off the record:

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About Ines Mergel

I am Full Professor of Public Administration at the Department of Politics and Public Administration at University of Konstanz, Germany. Previously, I served as Assistant and then Associate Professor (with tenure) at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University, NY. In my research, I focus on informal social networks in the public sector and the adoption and diffusion of digital service innovations in government organizations. I teach classes on social media management, digital government, public management, and social network analysis.

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