In recent weeks, the field has narrowed from seven to four (and now possibly two) candidates. As the field has gotten smaller, media coverage has intensified. By all estimates, over $75 million has been spent collectively by the candidates and their respective PAC's for advertising and organization (staff, etc). The flood of money entering politics has many people concerned that elections are now simply 'bought' by those with the most resources. In other words, it's not so much about the electorate actually liking a candidate as much as their being influenced to not like another candidate.
Such a trend got us thinking... If candidates can buy votes, can they also buy 'Likes'? And if so, what's the cost?
We decided to find out. Using our previous PROskore analysis of each candidate, we determined the average cost per 'Like' across the three major social networks (Facebook, Twitter, and Google+). To do this we took the total number of Fans and Followers (i.e. 'Likes) among Twitter, Facebook and Google+ as of March 21st... and subtracted them from their original number of 'Likes' as on January 3rd, around the time when the primaries began. We then took the difference between those two numbers and divided them from the overall money spent by each campaign (including PAC's, etc.) during that same time period. The result is an estimate on the average cost per 'Like'..
Twitter Followers: 220,000 386,000
Facebook Fans: 1,267,000 1,540,000
YouTube Views: 5,794,000
Google+ Followers: 4,300 365,000
Total Campaign Spend $46,000,000
$ per Vote $12.70
$ per "Like" $57.52
Twitter Followers: 53,000 175,000
Facebook Fans: 42,000 184,000
YouTube Views: 43,000 2,300,000
LinkedIn Connections: 350 357
Google+ Followers: 3,500
Total Campaign Spend $7,500,000
$ per Vote $3.01
$ per "Like" $28.25
Twitter Followers: 1,385,000 1,450,000
Facebook Fans: 224,000 296,000
YouTube Views: 6,300,000 9,580,000
LinkedIn Connections: 500+ 500+
Google+ Followers: 63,000 63,046
Total Campaign Spend $10,100,000
$ per Vote $4.78
$ per "Like" $73.72
Twitter Followers: 150,000 267,000
Facebook Fans: 675,000 917,000
YouTube Views: 36,000,000 47,367,000
LinkedIn Connections: 500+ 500+
Google+ Followers: 107,000 190,100
Total Campaign Spend $7,700,000
$ per Vote $6.33
$ per "Like" $17.41
As you can see, it essentially costs each candidate significantly more money to convince an average voter to 'Like' them than it does to actually vote for them. For example, Mitt Romney spends 5x more money to get someone to Like him than he does to get them to vote for him. Gingrich 15x more... Santorum 9x more. Ron Paul seems to have the least problem getting people to Like him with only 3x more spent on 'Likes' than votes.
This reminds me of a scene from the movie 'Bronx Tale' where the mafia boss is asked whether it's better to be loved or feared. He answers feared, because "fear lasts longer than love".
Would You Rather Be Liked Or Be President?
Think about it. Each time a person 'Likes' a candidate on social media, they're giving them permission to continue the conversation beyond the election cycle. In other words, it creates a long-term opportunity for candidates to market themselves, their books, their speaking engagements, future candidacies... And best of all, the audience is paid for. A Vote on the other hand, offers little value to a candidate beyond the day of the election.
In this sense, it's easy to understand why it's costing candidates more to earn 'Likes' than it does to earn 'Votes'. For most candidates, the 'Likes' are going to be more valuable over the long-term. Just ask Ron Paul after he sells a million copies of his book at $40 a pop to his 1 Million Facebook Fans.