Predictably, last Thursday night’s GOP Primary Debate lit up the social sphere for the duration, and well into the next day. Any candidates monitoring social mentions might well have delivered a few high-fives around their camps at the end of the night, assuming high numbers mean big support. Because high mentions on social automatically mean you’re doing well… right? Wrong.
In fact, sometimes voluminous mentions mean it’s time to gear up for damage control – and if the GOP presidential hopefuls aren’t able to recognize this, they’re going to find themselves in trouble as their campaign journeys wear on.
The people at NetBase love to see how social data and sentiment unfold in real-time, so they ran a Live Pulse during the debate – and got some interesting results. Here are some highlights, all of which came at a speed of more than 1.1 million mentions per hour:
- Donald Trump was the Sound Bite King over the course of the evening. He spent most of the night trending, with rare bumps from other candidates, and was the leader in mentions heading into and coming out of the debate.
- Rand Paul was first runner up to Trump for mentions – we’ll talk about why in a moment.
- Carly Fiorina did so well in the first debate that she was still a trending topic at the beginning of the second, taking third in overall mentions for the night.
- Megyn Kelly, one of the debate’s moderators saw mentions increase by 392% above normal.
And this is all good stuff right? If you’re one of the candidates, or even the moderators, you want people talking about you on social media, don’t you? Well, you want them talking if what they have to say is GOOD. But that wasn’t always the case Thursday night, which is clear when you look beyond mentions and weigh in sentiment to provide deeper context. Let’s go back up the list:
Even at an overwhelming 1.1 million mentions per hour, net sentiment – the value that indicates how viewers FEEL about a candidate – was only at 29. NetBase measures net sentiment as a number between -100 and 100, so 29 IS positive – but hardly a resounding public endorsement. And it was down from its average of 35 the prior 24 hours.
Megyn Kelly’s mentions were higher than usual, but after a few controversial questions her net sentiment was a bit negative at a -2% dip. In contrast, Carly Fiorina had the highest net sentiment of the night. Of course you might think looking at some of the other numbers that may not be saying much, but the people who liked her enough to get her to the third place spot REALLY like her. Her net sentiment jumped 23 points to +81% from the 24 hours prior.
People couldn’t stop talking about Rand Paul either, but mostly because they were cracking jokes or speaking negatively about his confrontational style.
As for Trump… So much of what he said emerged as trends, but again, not everyone on social was “with” him. Responding to a question about his negative treatment of women by taking yet another dig at Rosie O’Donnell brought a -6% change in net sentiment. Another contradiction in the many mentions of Trump were comments seeming to come from Democrats claiming Trump running would be a gift to their party.
What these discrepancies say to politicians – but also to brands – is clear: Mentions alone don’t cut it. Keywords alone don’t cut it. Imagine a keyword search for words like “Trump,” “win” and “yay.” And then imagine a tweet that says, “Yay! Trump’s running! Easy win for Democrats!”
That’s not a tweet Trump’s people should count as a plus, but they might because the search they’re running doesn’t include the emotion – the net sentiment – of the tweeter, which is what provides all the context.
The good news for the GOP candidates is that it’s early enough in the game for them to start looking at that context, and to determine what they want to do about it. For some it might mean tweaking their message to appeal to a wider demographic. For others it might mean a whole new strategy. For Trump… Well who knows what he might do with this kind of information if he had it? Probably swear at it.