President Obama participates in a Twitter "Town Hall." (AP)
The Obama campaign is posting much more digital content on many more platforms than the Romney campaign—and it's being shared more than twice as much.
Those are among the findings of a new study published Wednesday by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism.
The study analyzed the content and volume of campaign posts published online and on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other digital channels over a two-week period in June.
Between June 4 and 17, the Obama campaign published 614 pieces of digital content compared with Romney's 168.
On Twitter, the Obama campaign averaged 29 tweets per day—17 from @BarackObama and 12 from @Obama2012—during that span, while the Romney campaign (@MittRomney) averaged just one. The Obama campaign also published about twice as many blog posts on its re-election website as did the Romney campaign on its site, and uploaded twice as many YouTube videos. The Romney campaign was more active on Facebook than its Democratic rival, with 34 "wall" posts to the Obama campaign's 27.
In terms of social media reaction to each piece of content posted by their respective campaigns, Obama far outpaces Romney. A Facebook post by the Obama campaign gets, on average, 41,636 "likes," the study found, compared to 18,635 "likes" for Romney. Obama tweets were retweeted, on average, 372 times during the two-week period, while Romney's generated more than 5,300 retweets. (Those numbers are a little misleading: Romney issued just 16 tweets during that time, while Obama's two Twitter accounts published 404.)
At the time of the study, the Obama campaign had public accounts on nine separate platforms: Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, Tumblr, YouTube, Flickr, Instagram, Spotify and two on Twitter; the Romney campaign had official Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr and Google+ accounts—and has since added Tumblr and Spotify.
"While more digital activity does not necessarily translate into more votes," Tom Rosenstiel, PEJ director, noted, "historically candidates who are first to exploit changing technology have an advantage."
In terms of "followers," "views" and "likes," Obama's social reach—and impact—is vastly wider than Romney's, with the incumbent registering a 13:1 ratio over his challenger. On Twitter, Barack Obama has more than 18 million followers while Romney's "numbers are in question":
In late July, Mitt Romney's Twitter feed suddenly reported a massive spike in followers—adding 141,000 in just two days time, but research into those followers finds that they were mechanically generated rather than real individuals.
However, Obama has the built-in advantage of having begun some of these digital accounts in 2008.
And the study was conducted well before Romney's selection of Paul Ryan as his running mate. According to the "Facebook-CNN Election Talk Meter," Ryan was the most-talked about candidate on Facebook in the three days following Romney's announcement.
"Romney's campaign took steps to close the technology gap, and may well take more with the addition of Paul Ryan to the ticket," PEJ deputy director Amy Mitchell wrote. "But there is a long way to go before the Romney team matches the level of activity of the Obama campaign."
Not surprisingly, both campaigns are using social media as a way to "push" their messages, rather than foster conversation. On Twitter, for example, just 16 percent of the Obama campaign's 404 tweets were retweets. And the Romney campaign produced just a single retweet: a post from Romney's son Josh pointing to a photo of a climber holding a Romney campaign banner on Mount Everest.
"Great pic," Romney's Twitter feed wrote.
Both campaigns link more than 70 percent of their messaging back to their respective websites (where visitors can donate). And both campaigns have largely avoided sharing or posting media reports from mainstream news outlets.
"Four years ago the Obama campaign used press clips to validate his candidacy," PEJ said. "Now the only news of the day comes directly from the Obama campaign itself."
The Romney website does have a page dedicated to collecting stories by the mainstream news media—"albeit only those speaking positively of Romney or negatively of Obama."