Could Democrats be getting a taste of their own Twitter medicine? In the last week, Mitt Romney and Republican groups have elicited an avalanche of negative comments on Twitter employing Promoted Trend hashtags they purchased.
Today, as Democratic National Convention attendees in Charlotte anticipate President Barack Obama's nomination acceptance speech tonight, his campaign is running the Promoted Trend using its ubiquitous #Forward2012 message. And, as Obama supporters did with the GOP's purchased hashtags, Obama opponents are turning the Forward tag against him.
Several searches for tweets using the #Forward2012 tag over the last few hours generate several anti-Obama tweets in the midst of pro-Obama ones. The Obama camp is using the purchased Trend unit to push out messages about strengthening the middle class and increasing student loan funding.
It's difficult to tell at this stage what portion of the tweets featuring the #Forward2012 tag are anti-Obama. However, the reaction to the Promo Trend in the Twitterverse is a continuation of what observers saw with recent GOP trend buys - a pile-on by opponents.
By their nature, trending topics and the prominent Promoted Trend feature spur lots of tweets that include those topics and tags, so it comes as no surprise that the political campaign Promoted Trend buys have also resulted in lots of tweets. But there's a big difference in how users typically respond to Promo Trends from corporate brands and how they've been responding to the political Promo Trend buys of the past week.
Higher unemployment, more debt, more division, and bigger government! #Forward2012— Savannah (@thesavvy) September 6, 2012
The nature of political discourse online tends to be passionate, if not extreme and even vitriolic. That's playing out in Promo Trend-inspired tweets, said Ian Schafer, CEO and founder of Deep Focus, a digital agency specializing in social media marketing. "Politics is such a polarizing issue and most Promoted Trends are not polarizing," he said. "In general, political tweets are going to be strongly positive or strongly negative but not much in between…. With brands it's pretty boring in comparison.”
Some corporate Promoted Trends certainly have backfired into anti-brand comments, though. McDonald's has been subject to lots of Promo Trend-driven adversity. When it promoted the revival of its cult-favorite McRib sandwich through the Trend buy, the fast food giant prompted serious rib-wrath. Quips about rat meat and health problems abounded.
"In general, I wouldn't say it's a problem. I think it's a side effect and if you're willing to put up with the side effect...it's not a huge issue generally," said Schafer, who said he's been keeping a close watch on the election as its being played out in social media.
To Schafer, the goal of the Promoted Trend campaigns for these political organizations is less about inspiring a conversation about issues and more about feeding tweet fodder to an already-decided supporter base. "Social media is really good at getting people to amplify the message for you," he said. "I'm pretty sure it's not about the back-and-forth as much as it is the reverberation."
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Kate Kaye was Managing Editor at ClickZ News until October 2012. As a daily reporter and editor for the original news source, she covered beats including digital political campaigns and government regulation of the online ad industry. Kate is the author of Campaign '08: A Turning Point for Digital Media, the only book focused on the paid digital media efforts of the 2008 presidential campaigns. Kate created ClickZ's Politics & Advocacy section, and is the primary contributor to the one-of-a-kind section. She began reporting on the interactive ad industry in 1999 and has spoken at several events and in interviews for television, radio, print, and digital media outlets. You can follow Kate on Twitter at @LowbrowKate.
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