When Texas Gov. Rick Perry declared his candidacy for the Republican nomination Aug. 13, the same day as the Ames Straw Poll that he wasn’t in, those watching the political social streams could have been convinced that he had won. Twitter exploded with Perry, while Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.) in fact had won this nonbinding contest in Iowa. Social media was the writing on the wall, as it were. Perry would trend up in polls and surpass Bachmann. The Internet knew this before it happened in Gallup. Twitter was the early -- scratch that -- Twitter was the real-time warning system.
The chart above shows the number of times Bachmann, Perry and Romney were mentioned on Twitter during the weekend of the straw poll. Shortly after Bachmann lost the buzz war to Perry on the most important weekend of her campaign, her poll numbers plummeted.
Traditionally several barometers have been used to gauge the success of a campaign: polling data, fundraising totals, ad spending and endorsements, among others. Now social media success, especially via Twitter, is the newest measurable campaign benchmark.
@MentionMachine is a new Washington Post news application that monitors Twitter and media across the Web for political candidate mentions, revealing trends and spikes that show where the conversation is and why. It will launch Jan. 1, ahead of the Iowa caucuses, and will run through the presidential election in November 2012.
There are a few ways Twitter variables, or mentions, can be measured or extrapolated to examine trends in campaigns. Growth in number of followers, as long as they arelegitimately gained, or a high recurrence of re-tweets. Both are indicative of growing grass-roots support. A spike in the number of times a candidate is mentioned on Twitter might signal an event that could profoundly effect the campaign. There are many engagement presentations across The Washington Post site that will display @MENTIONMACHINE counts to show these variables.
@MENTIONMACHINE AT A GLANCE
• Toolbar -- An overlay that will display along the bottom of blog posts and stories related to election 2012, offering top-line counts by candidate.
• Candidate tracking -- Data-rich pages for each candidate that show drillable fever charts of Twitter spikes with Top Tweets for each, along with top-line data for media mentions and the latest stories across the Web related to that candidate.You can also assess the candidate’s standing through the @MentionMachine leaderboard, which ranks candidate’s by [TOTAL OR LATEST] Twitter and media mentions.
• @MentionMachine on Twitter -- The @MentionMachine will be part bot, part blog, with daily and weekly scores Tweeted by the “machine” and social analysis and candidate news served up from the Election 2012 blog.
• SOCIAL REPORTING -- Daily and weekly dives into the @MENTIONMACHINE data and other social indicators across the Web as it relates to the campaign. This content will be produced across The Washington Post site.
[cory to include screen grabs for the above or a visual of all offerings]
HOW TO USE @MENTIONMACHINE [SCREENCAST VIDEO EMBED HERE -- to be created, cory]
@MentionMachine was developed exclusively by The Washington Post. It leverages the Twitter streaming API to capture tweets and harvest the mention count along with Top Tweets for spikes relating to a particular candidate and common variations on the candidate name. Top Tweets are tweets that are most representative of all the tweets mentioning a candidate at that time. Each tweet within a specific time period is scored, based on its similarity with all the tweets about that candidate for that time period. To provide a greater variety of tweets, the final score of re-tweets are bumped down, allowing original tweets to be highlighted.
Part of the power of @MentionMachine is to show these Top Tweets as a way to quickly illustrate why a candidate is spiking. These display when hovering on the candidate fever chart. Users will also see Top Tweets and tweet streams for the timeframe/instance they are clicked into via the fever chart.
Twitter mention counts are offered from the last hour up to seven days out, with hour instances in between.
Media mention counts are derived by leveraging the Trove API and counting candidate mentions across the breadth of sources that Trove processes. Trove, a personalized news service that delivers information on user interests from more than 10,000 blog and news sites, is a company-owned platform supporting multiple products of The Washington Post Co. Media mention counts are offered from the last hour up to seven days out, with hour instances in between. The latest media headlines mentioning a candidate from Trove will be displayed dynamically along with the count.
THE @MENTIONMACHINE ROADMAP
The @MENTIONMACHINE that launches Jan. 1, 2012, will be considered version one. The project team will begin iterating plans for new releases shortly thereafter. Many ideas -- ranging from integrating sentiment analysis, sourcing from more social media streams, creating public widgets to pulling paid search data -- have already been tossed around. User engagement and usefulness to campaign reporting will ultimately help us decide what direction to take the app next. Your feedback is always welcomed. Tweet your thoughts to @MENTIONMACHINE or e-mail haikc]at]washpost]dot]com.
BROUGHT TO YOU BY...
Cory Haik, Executive Producer
Sean McBride and Jesse Foltz, Developers
Amanda Zamora, Digital Editor
Katie Parker, Designer
Natalie Jennings, Social Producer