Millions of clues surface minute-by-minute on social networks about our circumstances, needs, desires and opinions.

We are influenced, and we influence. Sentiment can change in a heartbeat, or with a slow, steady rhythm. New trends can break out fast, or patterns and correlations surface over time. Patterns emerge – and these prove prescient and predictive.

No politician or campaign can afford to ignore the predictive power of social intelligence. Again and again at Verifeed, we’ve found that Twitter proves both prescient and a consistent bellwether of opinion.

CQ-Roll Call is publisher of ‘inside news and intelligence’ from the U.S. Capitol and Agencies and provides an array of engagement, CRM and other products for associations, businesses and lobbyists needing to understand up-to-the-minute developments and trends from Washington likely to have an impact.

CQ-Roll Call gave us this challenge:

Identify and analyze voters, interest groups and others conversing on Twitter about the issues and developments likely to impact the outcome of the hotly contested North Carolina Senate Race – to see if these social conversations were an accurate predictor of the winner.

Polls consistently showed Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan in the lead up to Election Day, but Verifeed analysis of Twitter for CQ-Roll Call told a different (and accurate) story of Republican dominance, viral amplification and disciplined message coordination by party activists and outside groups such as the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity, in the final weeks of the campaign. In the end, Republican Thom Tillis triumphed 49 per cent to Hagan’s 47 per cent.

Here’s what Verifeed found as it filtered, parsed and patterned Twitter conversations in North Carolina over three months from August 15th to Election Day on November 4th, 2014:

Pollsters Vs. Social Intelligence from Twitter

  • While a Rasmussen Reports poll found Hagan ahead 45 percent to 39 percent, and another poll by SurveyUSA gave Hagan a 3-point lead (46 percent to 43 percent), Verifeed found the GOP and its surrogates in North Carolina engaged almost 14 times the number of people on Twitter as Democrats in the final week of the campaign.
  • Republicans overtook Democrats significantly on Twitter in volume, consistency and amplified influence by late October, in the last week energizing party faithful to vote when it mattered most.
  • Republicans had a disciplined message on Twitter, executed with precision, repetition and coordination between party workers and volunteers.
  • The result in just 23 days was direct engagement with 16,790,298 people by the top 20 GOP influencers via 33,330 “unique amplifiers”. That’s five times more than that of the top 20 Democrats influencers, who by contrast, engaged just 3,262,391 via 1,442 unique amplifiers.
  • The race began in August with Democrats clearly winning the Twitter battle for hearts and minds – engaging many more voters in issues traditionally important to Democrats such as public education, equal pay and job creation. Republicans were virtually absent from these conversations, and lagged in Twitter influence. Verifeed understood at least three weeks earlier than pundits and political media that Sen. Kay Hagan was bucking a national trend favoring Republicans by capitalizing on public unease with statehouse GOP cuts to education spending.
  • Verifeed was also early to capture the turning tide in late September, when Republicans launched a disciplined and energetic effort on Twitter to encroach on Democratic turf – dominating ‘Democratic’ issues like education and the economy in sheer numbers, activity and viral amplification.

Candidate vs. Candidate on Twitter

  • Democratic U.S. Senator Kay Hagan had consistently led Twitter influence rankings throughout the race, but in the last three weeks lost resonance and influence on Twitter to trail her challenger. The GOP’s Thom Tillis continued to amplify his reach and resonance on Twitter, up 21% to directly influence 509 “unique amplifiers” to engage 1,469,972 people – almost three times as many as his Democratic opponent.. Hagan engaged 235 unique amplifiers, down 58% on the 562 who amplified her message to 1,676,414 in the 30 days to October 14. In this period, she engaged only 465,114, down 72% on the previous period.

IT IS, or ‘It’s the Issues, Stupid!’

  • Just as Hagan had capitalized on voters’ passion around the education issue, Tillis too found resonance by bearing down on the “fear” theme. Verifeed was early to see the resonance of GOP efforts to tie Democrats to unease about Ebola with consistent messaging and relentless repetition. The GOP, including Tillis, tweeted more about Ebola in the 23 days to Election Day than any other topic — with 997 tweets reaching 3.3 million people.
  • Republicans also kept up their focus on Hagan’s deciding vote for the Affordable Care Act; in particular tying Obamacare, already unpopular in the state, to economic uncertainty and job losses. The GOP engaged more people on this issue than any other — reaching 3.93 million in the final weeks compared to the Democrats who engaged only 152,496. Republicans also encroached on Democratic turf in later weeks to overtake Democrats on the economy and education. While Democrats had engaged 942,706 in education discussions from Aug. 15 through Sept. 15, compared with the GOP’s 76,877, the tide turned in late October, with Republicans engaging 343,314 compared to the Democrats down at just 207,171 as public interest in teachers pay and public school cuts dimmed.

Social and GOTV Efforts

  • Midterm elections are often won or lost on how effective the parties are at the get-out-the-vote ground game. Democratic influence and amplification on the topic of early voting, voter registration and GOP efforts to restrict both, outpaced the Republicans before early voting opened on Oct. 23. Twitter users Verifeed deemed Democratic influencers in this race engaged 3,159,499 with pleas to vote early, compared with the GOP’s 412,113. This Twitter trend played out at the polls when Democrats increased their share of the early vote, up 1.5 percent from 2010 according to the U.S. Election Project.
  • But again, Republicans stepped up their #GOTV efforts in the last week and Democratic engagement on GOTV dropped 81 percent from the first half of October. In the final week they engaged 567,089 on Twitter compared with 840,266 for the Republicans.

Why Social Intelligence is a Must-Have for any Campaign

Our work for CQ-Roll Call informed their coverage of the race. In the hands of a politician – incumbent or newcomer – it’s priceless. Pollsters can tell you only so much, limited as they are by a small sample size, long lead times, and the limitations of the questions asked. And of course we all want to be polite: If we can’t tell a pollster what they want to hear, well, we can always be “undecided” without offending anyone.

We’re not saying don’t use polls or focus groups or attack ads on television. But when you do, use social intelligence to improve the questions you ask, better target the voters you want to reach, and monitor in real time the impact of your statements and actions. See what trends are emerging, see who is influencing and changing opinions, and see even what phrases are resonating with whom. Monitor your opponent – what’s working and not working?

The intelligence is powerful, prescient and predictive and can make all the difference in any race.
Together we can create a plan that works perfectly for you.

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