Jon Friedman's Media Web
Romney's Twitter cry: Tweet or risk defeat8/29/12 8/29/2012 (MarketWatch)Print
This is Part 1 in a series about the presidential candidates and the media. Next week, we look at President Barack Obama.
NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- Mitt Romney must improve his showing on Twitter to attract undecided voters and solidify his Republican base.
Romney's mantra might well be: Tweet or face defeat.
As the Republican National Convention heats up this week, all eyes are on Romney. When it comes to the social-media battleground, the challenger sure has his work cut out for him. He is badly lagging President Barack Obama.
The Hollywood Reporter noted on Aug. 14: "If Twitter followers and Facebook likes were a measure of electability to the highest office in the land, the contest would already be over. Mitt Romney's official Twitter account has about 852,000 followers compared to more than 18 million for Barack Obama."
Now, before you start talking about how the media must be composed of Obama-loving liberals, consider what the Human Events, a conservative-oriented publication, also pointed out as recently as Aug. 27:
"Team Obama is crushing Romney and the Republicans within the interactive/social media arena."
That sounds like the political version of tough love.
The Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism measured the content and volume of candidate communications on their websites and social-media channels in a survey that was conducted from June 4-17.
The profound digital divide on Twitter underscores the two candidates' recognition of the importance of the social media. Like it or not, Twitter has changed the way people communicate with one another. It influences everything in our lives from our political discourse to where we shop.
Pew noted that Romney's campaign averaged one tweet per day compared with Obama's output of 29 -- 17 of which were @BarackObama, the Twitter account related to his presidency, and 12 on @Obama2012, the feed tied to his campaign. It said Obama also had approximately twice as many blog posts on his campaign website than Romney, "and more than twice as many YouTube videos."
What this means is that Romney is making it harder for himself and his campaign to get his particular message out, whether it is about the economy, immigration or social issues.
Romney is missing an opportunity to reach out to both his loyal political base and the critical group of undecided voters. He is squandering an opportunity to tell a large group of people where he stands. Complicating matters, he is allowing his chief political rival to be heard more forcefully.
Tangentially, by failing to embrace Twitter, Romney's image may take a hit as well. Politicians, who covet endorsements from celebrities, forever strive to look young and hip and engaged. But with a poor Twitter showing, Romney looks, well, so ... 20th century. He might as appear for a photo op while listening to his favorite tunes on a Sony Walkman instead of an Apple iPod.
Pew said the Obama campaign posts four times as much content as the Romney forces and is active on twice as many platforms.
The social-media platform has enabled Romney to focus on one of his primary talking points: the president's failure to create jobs.
It's essential for Romney to prove his mettle on Twitter -- and Facebook as well -- because he faces the uphill battle of winning over the national media.
According to a Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey conducted two weeks ago, 59% of likely U.S. voters believe that President Barack Obama has gotten the best treatment from the media to date. Only 18% said Romney has been treated better, while 23% were undecided.
Human Events, whose online slogan is "Powerful Conservative Voices," noted in a recent piece the urgency on Romney to connect: "With 71 days until Election Day, Mitt Romney and the Republicans need to spend every waking hour reviewing the success of their current campaign marketing strategy to understand what's working and what's not."
Romney needs Twitter. But does he know that yet?
Jon Friedman is the author of .