The Innovative Business of Social Media and Politics

    Twitter CEO Evan Williams is seen silhouetted against a screen at Twitter headquarters in San Francisco, Calif. Data company TrendPo is analyzing social media like Twitter and Facebook to measure politicians’ popularity, delivering a unique and valuable yardstick to politicians.(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

    WASHINGTON—Politicians seeking to measure their popularity now have another tool in their belt. TrendPo, a D.C.-based technology company headquartered in San Francisco, has beefed up social media monitoring, a task often relegated to interns. 

    The company, founded in 2012, ranks the effectiveness of politicians in news and social media by using a complex algorithm that factors in online public sentiment—both positive and negative—Facebook likes, and Twitter mentions. Data is collected, analyzed, and then delivered to politicians in a one-page synopsis that compresses social, media, news, and buzz activity.

    “We measure and rank the political world every day,” said J.D. Chang, founder of TrendPo, in a phone interview. 

    “By 2016, we want to provide a daily approval poll for every politician in the country using TrendPo rank,” said Chang in a video interview with Politico. “And at the same time, we want to be able to take that approval poll and actually translate that into campaign results.” 

    The TrendPo teams are extremely familiar with campaign results. They are currently working to prove a correlation between social media popularity and election results. So far, Chang reports that they’ve seen high rates of correlation. In other words, Facebook popularity may reflect popularity in the polls. 

    The TrendPo blog shows examples of Facebook data mimicking poll results. 

    In the Democratic primary of the New Jersey campaign to fill the vacant Senate seat, Cory Booker was favored to win—no surprise to TrendPo. The company’s Facebook data for Booker was in line with a Quinnipiac poll, according to the TrendPo blog. The Quinnipiac poll reported Booker with 54 percent of the vote, Rep. Frank Pallone with 17 percent, Rep. Rush Holt with 15 percent, and Sheila Oliver with 5 percent. Comparatively, Booker also took the lead in Facebook likes, with 174,747 likes on Aug. 11. Holt had only 11,804, Pallone 4,231, and Oliver a mere 1,557. 

    Booker subsequently won the primary. 

    TrendPo also ranks public sentiment. Politicians and their members are able to see and track the effects of their stances on certain issues and compare themselves to their competitors. The potential application of this data is diverse. 

    Beth Becker, a partner at political consulting firm Indigo Strategies, was quoted in an article on Tech Cocktail, stating that political groups value customized data because it helps them to engage people on the topics they care about. Indigo Strategies is a TrendPo subscriber. 

    TrendPo also helps its members to target audiences for their online advertising campaigns on social media channels and track their results, according to Chang. 

    Politicians are often looking for results—votes, public support, signatures on petitions—so it’s no surprise that they are increasingly using social media to communicate with voters and to promote their viewpoints. 

    Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) ranks as one of the U.S. politicians with the most Twitter followers. Ryan recently tweeted, “The President claims his economic agenda is for the middle class. But it’s actually for the well-connected.” 

    Social media can make or break a political career, bringing to light and spreading the truths of scandal as fast as—and in some cases even quicker than—traditional media outlets. And in the campaign world where branding and messaging are an important factor in campaign outcomes, the application of social media data may give politicians a competitive edge in crafting and delivering the right messages to right people.




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