Election night 2012 makes history on Twitter

Tens of millions of tweets, including one heavily retweeted note and picture from the president after he was re-elected, marked the first social media election.

Millions of tweets, likes and online posts are the new political lawn signs. From the debates to Tuesday’s election, the country took to social media as the preferred outlet for political commentary for the 2012 general election.

There were 10 million tweets during the first presidential debate, and Twitter’s own election coverage feed @gov said 20 million tweets were posted Tuesday using the #election2012 hashtag, making it the most tweeted political event in US history. As the television networks called the race for President Obama, @gov reported a stunning 327,453 election tweets per minute.

And the most retweeted missive ever came from the @barackobama feed, saying simply “four more years” and attached a TwitPic of the president hugging the First Lady.

As people lined up at the polls on Tuesday, @gov’s #twindex showed that Obama was the most-tweeted-about candidate in every swing state: 40 percent of national tweets to 24 percent for Romney, reversing the trend of recent days.

HootSuite’s 2012 Election Tracker followed 6 million mentions for both Obama and Romney and 44 million Facebook “likes” as polls closed. Also, apparently quantity was more important that quality on Twitter in terms of Twitter buzz. Social media monitoring firm SocialBaker tracked a minute-by-minute “cheer meter” showing Obama mentions outgained Romney mentions, but overall mentions of the two candidates falling off on Election Day.

Adding further proof to the strength of this social media election, a survey by journalism think-tank Pew found that 22 percent of registered voters announced their vote early on a social networking site, and about a third of people between the ages of 18 and 29 offered tweets or Facebook updates with their presidential choices.

For what it’s worth, slightly more Obama than Romney supporters announced their votes on social networks (25 percent to 20 percent), but Pew says the “difference is not statistically significant.”

So what were all of those people online saying? Here are a few updates from the politicos, insiders, and the Twitter masses, where comments ranged from poignant to profane to perfunctory:

At one point during the evening a rouge tweet caught fire that claimed that NBC called the senate race in Massachusetts, prompting Brian Williams to deny it on the air. And when the press called the Missouri senate race for Claire McCaskill, Twitter lighted up with gags about her opponent Todd Akin, referring to his “legitimate rape” statement.

As with the entire political season, odd trends emerged. On Tuesday, the trending hashtag #IfRomneyWin drew some humorous tweets, including:

Gil Rudawsky is a former reporter and editor. He heads up the crisis communication and issues management practice at GroundFloor Media in Denver. Read his blog or contact him at grudawsky@groundfloormedia.com.


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