A Look at Fox News’ Social Media Strategy During GOP Debate

  • Guest post by Esteban L. Hernandez

    With a field of candidates reduced to five hopefuls after the departure of Jon Huntsman, Fox News gathered the remaining GOP presidential candidates for yet another GOP debate in Myrtle Beach, S.C., on Monday night.

    Hosted by Bret Baier, the debate is the 16th of it’s kind, the most of any other primary. The event was sponsored by the South Carolina Republican Party and the Wall Street Journal.

    Fox News’ efforts to increase the debate’s social media presence included asking Twitter users to determine if the candidate answered or dodged questions during the debate. Fox News suggested to Twitter users to use the Twitter handle’s of the candidates along with the hashtag #answer or #dodge to indicate how the candidate responded to a question (either answered the question or dodged it altogether). The official hashtag for the debate was #SCDebate.

    On the Fox News website, where the debate was available for live streaming, a set of buttons next to the candidate’s Twitter avatars allowed users on computers to press either the #answer or #dodge button, which would prompt a new tweet that included the hashtag and the candidate’s handle for quicker interaction.

    At one point, three debate-related topics trended worldwide, and included #dodge, “Africans Americans” and “Santorum to Romney.” Africans Americans was a reference to a word slip by Rick Santorum, who meant to say “African-Americans”; a majority of people appeared either distraught or made humorous remarks relating to the slip.

    During a break, Fox News’ online staff of commentators broke down some of the results of the #answer #dodge responses on Twitter. Mitt Romney spent a majority of the debate in the #dodge area, meaning that most Twitter users saw his responses as simply not answer the question.

    Newt Gingrich, who Fox News’ online commentators declared the night’s winner, and Rick Santorum’s responses fluctuated between the two options. During this breakdown, Ron Paul and Rick Perry’s stats were not explored.

    Since 1980, the winner of the South Carolina primary has successfully chosen the eventual GOP candidate.