Can Digital Engagement and Online Ad Spend Predict Tonight’s Winner?

Forget the pundits, the polls, and toss out the Electoral math. Put the talking heads on mute. The new way to predict the winner of today’s Presidential Election just may be by comparing social signals, online display investment, search spend and SEO results.

Call it the politics of engagement, 2012.

In other words, becoming President is more about banners, adwords and Klout than it is TV ads and stump speeches. That’s at least according to the Washington Post about a study completed by Larry Kim of Wordstream, as well as data crunched by social advertising platforms and published by eConsultancy. Kim, for his part, is predicting a landslide victory for Obama based on a comparison of digital engagement and online advertising spend. He found that while its assumed Obama has a much larger following on social media due to the legacy of his 2008 campaign, what’s notable was the amount of traffic to the campaign website (8.6 million in October vs 2.6 for Romney), and the amount of video views on YouTube — Obama dominated, 262 million to 29.3 million. Kim also found that Obama had spent significantly more in search and display — at almost 2 to 1 levels.

All this is significant, because, as Kim puts it: “This isn’t 1994. In this day and age, when everyone and their grandma is on Facebook and has an iPhone, Internet presence really matters. Romney’s relatively weak Internet presence and comparatively low spending on online marketing channels could be very bad news for the Republican party.” 

If he’s correct, measuring engagement, ad spend and applying it to an action (I like you on Facebook, I follow you on Twitter…and will now vote for you or buy from you) should shatter the world of political punditry and require that anyone prognosticating results do so with a healthy dose of tangible digital data at hand. So — no more old guys with their fingers in the breeze. If he’s wrong, then it just may indicate that digital engagement metrics do not necessarily line up with actual intent, or that the volume of engagement doesn’t necessarily equal increased intent to take action.

Granted, all this is fun, and in a few hours we can come back and post comments on the relative wisdom of predicting political campaigns. But it’s also valuable to know that online metrics and behavioral data are and will increasingly be used to model, predict and measure offline activities. From generating email leads to attracting walk-in customers, there is no longer such a thing as digital and non-digital marketing. It’s all just marketing — with a wealth of rich information about engagement, intent and awareness on hand to help drive decisions.

–Sources: Washington Post, Wordstream, eConsultancy

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