Never Mind Virginia or Jersey. What Does Twitter Think About Brand Obama?

Dumenco's Trendrr Chart of the Week

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This week was all about political branding -- and the effect that a certain national political brand may or may not have had on certain local political brands.

"It's too simple to say this was a vote against Obama," writes Peggy Noonan in today's Wall Street Journal of Tuesday's Republican gubernatorial victories in New Jersey and Virginia. Then again, she continues, "A president has only so much time. Mr. Obama gives a lot of his to health care. But the majority of voters in New Jersey and Virginia told pollsters they were primarily worried about joblessness and the economy. They're on another path, and they don't like the path he's chosen. ... Mr. Obama and the House leadership may be too deep into health care to make a shift now and get in line with the American people's concerns. But they should start paying attention to what the people are saying. What happened Tuesday isn't a death knell, but it is a fire alarm: Something's wrong, fix it, change course."

Then again, Gail Collins sarcastically wrote in the New York Times on Wednesday that "There is no way to deny that New Jersey and Virginia were terrible, horrible, disastrous, cataclysmic blows to Obama's prestige. No wonder the White House said he was not watching the results come in. How could the man have gotten any sleep after he realized that his lukewarm support of an inept candidate whose most notable claim to fame was experience in hog castration was not enough to ensure a Democratic victory in Virginia?" As for New Jersey, "The defeat of Gov. Jon Corzine made it clear that the young and minority voters who turned out for Obama will not necessarily show up at the polls in order to re-elect an uncharismatic former Wall Street big shot who failed to deliver on his most important campaign promises while serving as the public face of a state party that specializes in getting indicted."

All right, so the pundits have spoken about what the people were actually saying when the people spoke. Fine. Now, for this week's Trendrr chart -- make that charts -- let's dive back into the Twittersphere. A few notes and observations:

  • The first chart, showing the number of Twitter posts per day that name-checked Obama, suggests that there wasn't exactly a surge of tweets on election day that referenced the president one way or another. On Tuesday, 29,975 tweets included "Obama." Contrast that with October 9, when 276,536 Twitterers tweeted about the president after he won the Nobel Peace Prize, or 225,835 tweets on July 7 during his high-profile trip to Russia.
  • Wait a second?! Did more people tweet about Obama's Nobel than about his inauguration? Yes, but that has much more to do with Twitter's amazing growth than varying levels of Obama's mindshare. In January, Twitter was averaging just a little more than 5 million monthly visitors to its site (an incomplete picture of total Twitter activity, of course, since many people use mobile clients and never even visit, whereas as of October Twitter's website had roughly 23.5 million monthly visitors. Extrapolating from that growth curve, we can reasonably presume that, were Twitter as big in January as it is today, Inauguration Day would appear as the towering peak on this chart.
  • If you read my "Twitter, Baby, Tell Me How You REALLY Feel" charticle, you know that Trendrr recently added Twitter sentiment analysis, which involves mapping certain words against the feelings they are typically meant to convey, so that you can get a sense of not only how many people are tweeting about a certain subject, but how they generally feel about it. As I noted, slang, sarcasm, idiomatic expressions and other factors can obviously affect the inexact science of divining human sentiment from 140 character or less bursts of text -- but the overall trendlines can be instructive. And in Obama's case, things haven't been looking so great lately, with negative tweets consistently outnumbering positive tweets since mid-October.
  • What happens if you tweet, "I love Obama but I hate Jon Corzine" or "I hate Obama and I like Bob McDonnell's hair, but I never vote"? The omniscient Twitter Fail Whale burps ... and Peggy Noonan and Gail Collins get booked on another cable news show to tell you exactly what you meant.

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Dumenco's Trendrr Chart of the Week is produced in collaboration with Wiredset, the New York digital agency behind Trendrr, a social- and digital-media tracking service. More background here. A basic Trendrr account is free; Trendrr Pro, which offers more robust tracking and reporting tools, comes in various paid flavors (get the details here).

Simon Dumenco is the "Media Guy" media columnist for Advertising Age. You can follow him on Twitter @simondumenco.

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