In the ever evolving media landscape, YouTube is playing an increasingly larger role. Essentially free videos, produced at no or low-cost by consumers, are currently generating more views than many television programs. Even more interesting, they are generating results in terms of sales and brand engagement that ad agencies can only dream of being able to deliver. In the political arena, YouTube's impact on voters has already been proven. Just ask George Allen, the Republican senator from Virginia who's defeat in 2006 was widely attributed to his “Macaca moment” captured on YouTube.
But in this cycle, it's not just the negative visuals that are impacting the race. Favorable and funny videos about the candidates are being put up, downloaded, ranked, and shared at unprecedented rates. More interesting, is that a good moment (or a bad one) on the primary trail that in the past might have only been seen by voters in New Hampshire, now gets national and, in fact, worldwide attention. John McCain faltering candidacy may have been saved by videos of his humorous response to a question about his age. Obama's campaign received who knows how big a boost from the “Obama Girl” video. But more than any other candidate, it is republican Ron Paul whose rabid supporters on YouTube and other social networking sites have catapulted Paul's candidacy from back of the pack obscurity to front page news. His record breaking fundraising has to be attributed, in some large measure, to the attention that he received on YouTube, because he certainly wasn't getting any in the mainstream press.
The sheer volume of political videos is astounding.
In one study conducted by KDPaine & Partners that has been tracking only videos that mention the candidates in the context of New Hampshire, host of the first in the nation primary, the sheer volume of videos has grown from a few dozen to more than three hundred per month, with Republican hopeful Ron Paul far ahead of all of his rivals in both parties. Paul has attracted more than three million views of his videos within seven days of posting them to the posted. Paul's videos account for half of the top 10 most-viewed videos in the study.
John McCain's reply, “Thanks, you little jerk,” at a stump speech in New Hampshire to a question about his age, was the most-viewed of any video. It was watched more than 300,000 times.
While we won't know until January 8th (the date of the New Hampshire primary) if there's a correlation between social media activity and voting patterns, what we do know is that there is very little relationship between what people who answer their phones tell the pollsters, and the activity of people who vote on and rate videos on YouTube..
Videos posted by the campaign of front-runner Hillary Clinton were among the least favorably rated among the democratic candidates by YouTube users, who score each video on a one to five scale. Clinton's videos received an average rating of 3.47, compared to 4.80 for videos posted by Paul's campaign and 4.61 for videos posted on the Edwards campaign's channel.
Interestingly, fewer than 10 % of videos account for 80% of views, indicating that you only need a few good videos to get your messages across. Readers can access the data behind the study at http://www.diydashboard.com, with user name YouTube and password kdpaine.