I’ve had a number of calls in the last week asking about the stats TechPresident is compiling on the number of MySpace and Facebook friends each candidate has. It really is sort of a specious number.
Judging a candidate based on the number of garage bands and Girls Gone Wild wannabes they can attract is laughable. If the number of MySpace friends was actually an indicator of electability, then Tila Tequila would be our next President. Her total of 1.7 million friends is 17 times the collective total of the entire Presidential field.
The friend count, however, is getting traction for one simple reason – it’s one of the few quantifiable numbers in the online game.
Campaigns are unwilling to talk about their e-mail open rates; e-mail list size is discussed, but not verifiable. You can look at traffic stats for the candidate web sites, but given the number of outlets where people can get news and information about the campaign, you’re not capturing the full level of interest. YouTube views are available, but nobody’s arguing that’s a good metric. Social networking tools provided by the campaigns may offer some degree of transparency, but those can be easily manipulated through offline activity.
Campaigns, ultimately, are won and lost by how many voters are contacted, identified, and turned out. Friend counts have almost none of that. If you spend any time looking at the candidate pages, and surfing their friends, you’ll see a lot of the same people signed up for all the candidates from one party. Which candidate they favor is anyone’s guess.
These tools are less a measure of candidates, and more a measure of movements online.