COLLEGE PARK, Maryland — Political candidates use a variety of tools to communicate with their constituents, campaign for office and promote their policies.
In recent years, Facebook has become a popular medium in that toolbox, and incumbent Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and his opponent, former NAACP President Ben Jealous, are using the platform for these purposes.
To gauge how the two political candidates are using Facebook, Capital News Service gathered data from their public pages from June 26, the date of the Maryland primary, through Sept. 24, the day of the only gubernatorial debate.
Both candidates’ campaign Facebook pages were examined. Hogan’s official governor’s Facebook page was not included in the review.
Hogan’s following is more than 10 times greater than Jealous’—with the pages having 275,927 and 26,024 followers respectively at the time of publication. Hogan’s page is verified by Facebook with a blue badge, whereas Jealous’ is not.
Though follower count on Jealous’ page is more than 90 percent smaller than Hogan’s, the engagements on the posts during this time period are 40 percent less, which suggests that Jealous’ page is relatively more active in terms of engagement.
During the 90-day period, Hogan posted on Facebook 412 times, whereas Jealous only posted 199 times.
Examining posts by content type
Through an examination of Facebook posts by content type, Capital News Service analysis found that Hogan used photos, videos and external links almost equally, and rarely posted updates solely using text.
While Hogan seems to prefer posting photos (with 125 posts containing photos), the majority of Jealous’ posts were external links or videos, with many of the videos utilizing the Facebook Live feature. Only two photos were posted on Jealous’ page since June.
Examining top five posts by engagement
Facebook calculates post engagement by adding reactions, shares and comments.
Hogan’s most engaging posts included three photos, one video and one link to an article on The Baltimore Sun’s website.
Three of the five top posts were policy- or campaign-related. In the caption accompanying a “Teachers for Hogan” image, Hogan explicitly asks his followers to like the photo “if you think they should focus on more important issues like educating our kids.”
However, the most popular post, with more than 3,000 engagements, called on Democrats to vote for Hogan and his moderate platforms.
Jealous’ top three posts were links, two pointing to articles on The Baltimore Sun and another linking to The Atlantic.
Examining reactions and engagement on Facebook
During this time frame, Hogan’s posts garnered 110,906 total engagements, whereas Jealous’ posts got 65,791 engagements. Though follower count on Jealous’ page is 90 percent smaller than Hogan’s, the engagements on the posts during this time period are only 40 percent less, which suggests that Jealous’ page is relatively more active in terms of engagement.
Reactions, or “likes” and the more recent emoji-type buttons, contribute to overall post engagement figures on Facebook. A study from Quintly suggests that 70.2 percent of all engagements on Facebook come from these reactions. On both candidates’ pages, “likes” account for 82 percent of post reactions. However, Jealous’ posts received more “love” reactions (13 percent) than Hogan’s posts (7 percent).
Though reactions dominate, Facebook users can also engage with posts by sharing them or commenting on them.
Shares and comments made up 34 percent of total engagement on Hogan’s posts, whereas shares and comments accounted for 37 percent of total engagement on his opponent’s posts.
Facebook as a political communication tool
In recent years, Facebook and other social media platforms have become popular among politicians and candidates. Some of the most followed political figures on Facebook include former President Barack Obama, President Donald Trump and former governor and presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
A study from Pew Research Center also found that 25 percent of social media users follow candidates or other political figures on various social media platforms. Almost two-thirds of these users said they follow accounts of politicians who share their beliefs.
Capital News Service polled Twitter followers to determine why they follow politicians on social media. A majority of those polled—63 percent—selected the “all of the above option,” which suggests that they follow politicians to get to know them, receive updates and hear their opinions.
Fifty-three percent of respondents said they follow politicians on social media, regardless of whether they agree with them. Forty-seven percent said they prefer to follow only politicians they agree with.
CNS wants to hear from you: Why do you follow politicians on social media? ✅
— Capital News Service (@CNSmd) September 28, 2018
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