English: Governor Mitt Romney of MA

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One of my favorite sites Read Write Web (congrats on becoming part of SAY media!) posted an interesting article on the recent Iowa Caucus and the predictive power of social media. There were many conclusions from the article, and things to consider, but in short the message was that the poll results did not match up with predictions based on social buzz. Their explanation for this fact was that while social media is a way for candidates to engage their fans and keep them up to date on their platform and events, that doesn’t mean that social media is a way to predict voting. There’s some wisdom in that, but also some marketing interpretations that are very useful.

While RWW focused on Twitter buzz, I’ll focus on Facebook reach. One thing most people don’t really realize about facebook pages is that they provide a very very powerful analytic- “Friends of Friends

This “friends of friends” stat is a pretty useful indicator of the maximum potential reach of any given post. The nature of social media is that a conversation you have with an individual is in a lot of ways a conversation with all of THEIR friends. So what does this mean? Well, if you take the average number of friends people have on facebook, and factor that into the population of a given community (America in this instance, or more particularly registered republicans) it works out that you generally need 20% of a population to have a potential 100% reach.

What that means is if your page is “liked” by 20% of a demographic, the friends of those who like you will usually cover the other 80%.

Before the polls I made some predictions among friends of the “top three” that would show based on the maximum potential reach of their facebook pages, assuming that the reach was an indication of engagement (loyalty).

I’d chose Mitt Romney (over 1,000,000 fans) as the winner, Ron Paul as Number 2 (the closest to Mitt with over 600,000) and left the number 3 spot to Newt (a respectable 200,000 fans).

Well was I right? Absolutely not. Ok, Mitt did win that particular poll, and Paul was dropped from second to third, Newt dragged in at 4th and some guy from PA with 50k facebook fans won the whole contest.

So what happened? Well, in short Santorum did not need a million facebook fans to sweep up in Iowa- his message of conservative social values in a State with many white evangelical Christians took the prize. Why? Well, forgive me for generalizing, but the evangelical vote is usually “single issue” – and that issue is “is he a good Christian?” Mr. Ron Paul’s¬†foreign¬†policy was of little importance as he just doesn’t have the religious clout as Santorum.

So what does this mean for marketing? Know your audience. Know them really well. You can have all the numbers on God’s Green Earth and still fail with your message.

This applies to Apple’s recent talk about allowing indie authors to submit their works to the book store for the iPad. In my writing group (I write books) the issue came up and there was a LOT of chatter about if it was good, bad, or worth looking at.

There are about as many Kindles as there are iPads on the market. So if you’re just running a numbers game you should expect that the market for indie authors (who sell primarily through Amazon for the Kindle) just doubled, right? Well, Kindle readers are “Single Issue” buyers. 100% of sales on Kindle are books 100% of the time. Can you say the same for the iPad? iPad users break their time up between web apps, games, movies, news, other media and then somewhere down the line… books.

When marketing a book for download on Amazon you know that your audience is primarily readers and you don’t have to compete with anything but other writers. With the iPad? You have to compete with Twitter, Facebook and Angry Birds for people’s time (note: I have no idea what Angry Birds is or if its on the iPad but I see a lot of memes about it so…)

Conclusions? Who you market to is as important as what you market. Predictions based on social media? Mitt Romney again #1 in NH, Paul #2, and Santorum will be lamenting his unfortunate situation with Google in 4th place.


I’ll update when I’m proved wrong by reality!