Rick Santorum Breaks Twitter Record For Most Talked About Candidate on Super Tuesday

Mar 8, 2012 6:00am

Mitt Romney may have won the most states in Super Tuesday’s 10 primaries, but Rick Santorum stole the show online.

As Santorum took the stage for his election night speech, Twitter exploded with chatter about him.

More than 40,000 tweets — or about 8 percent of all the Super Tuesday related tweets sent out from 6 a.m. Tuesday through 6 a.m. Wednesday — mentioned Santorum and were fired off between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. ET during his speech, setting a 2012 election record for the highest spike in Twitter mentions of any GOP candidate, according to analyses by Twitter and the media analytics company Blue Fin Labs.

Santorum also topped the charts as the most-searched candidate on Yahoo Tuesday.

“You consider that politics, particularly in the primary race, tends to be a game of buzz and momentum,” said Twitter spokesman Adam Sharp. “To win an election you want the conversation to be about you.”

But that online buzz was not necessarily a good thing for the candidate. An analysis of Yahoo searches during Santorum’s speech, and corresponding Twitter spike, showed that the majority of the buzz was actually negative.

William Powers, director of the election project for Blue Fin Labs, said Santorum’s Twitter spike was the “highest percentage of clearly negative sentiment than any other candidate got all day.”

Yahoo News Senior Editor Phoebe Connelly, who analyzed the search engine’s Super Tuesday data, said even though Santorum’s campaign has traveled the country for the past eight months, the majority of Yahoo searchers were still trying to find out basic information about the candidate. Most searches were for things like “Rick Santorum bio.”

“It’s like they don’t know who he is and are now struggling to figure out who he is,” Connelly said.

Santorum’s social media spike on Tuesday was dramatic, but has been dwarfed by Romney’s sustained and substantial online presence. Romney has ten times as many Facebook fans as Santorum and 1.2 million more fans than Newt Gingrich, who won only his home state of Georgia on Tuesday.

Colin Delany, the founder and editor of epolitics.com, which analyses how politicians can best use social media, cautioned that this support online does not necessarily translate into support at the polls.

“It’s about like trying to predict an election based on how many yard signs someone has,” Delany said. “Sometimes it’s a good reflection but certainly not a definite correlation.”

There is a correlation between a politician’s ability to stimulate a following on the web and the organization and enthusiasm they are likely to have on the ground, Delany said.

And on that front, Romney’s online prowess seems to be working in his favor.

Facebook fans interacted with Romney — whose campaign infrastructure is notoriously extensive– through “likes” and/or comments more than 680,000 times in January and February, according to an analysis by Socialbakers.

Santorum, on the other hand, who is known for his shoestring campaign budget, received feedback from his online following just over 510,000 times, even though he put up twice as many posts.

The two GOP frontrunners use markedly different rhetoric on Facebook as well.

A Socialbakers analysis of the Republican presidential candidates’ Facebook posts shows that while Romney has his eye on the general election prize, Santorum is still entrenched in the GOP primary battle.

The words Romney most frequently used when talking to his 1.5 million Facebook fans over the past two months are “America” and “President.” Santorum’s most commonly used word, on the other hand, is “Romney.”

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