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March 12th, 2010

Revised: Grassley Grabs Top Spot in Iowa New Media Rankings

Social MediaWhat kind of barometer are social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to a candidate’s effectiveness in a primary or general election? Social media is obviously a tool to reach constituents where they already hang out online, but does the popularity of candidates social networking sites translate to votes on Election Day like it did for Obama?

By researching the social media statistics of notable politicians either running or holding an office here in Iowa, the totals seem to paint a picture of how well they are engaging with voters right now. Also evaluating the significance of the social site’s viral reach we can gauge how well they leverage the internet for their office and or campaigns.

I graded each politician’s presence in social media with a gut level opinion of how well I felt they are using social media in comparison to their opponents. I also considered the size of office the candidates are seeking. In other words, I expect a larger following for a statewide office than I would a congressional seat.

This report card is not meant to hand out discouraging grades, but rather serve as a wakeup call to encourage republicans to upgrade their online strategy and to boost both campaign message appeal and effectiveness. 

The one thing all candidates have in common is that there is room for improvement in growing social networks.  Ultimately amassing votes are what campaigns want on election day, but to get to victory part of a well balanced breakfast game plan is engaging, informing and equipping prospective voters.

Make no mistake it does take time and tenacious work to build and maintain social sites.  Even with a few short cuts it must still be given attention regularly.   So enjoy these figures as they do tell an emerging story.  And FYI with full disclosure I do work on social media for Vander Plaats, but I believe the grade still fits the bill. 

First off, Grassley has the best Twitter follower count. Grassley also works YouTube better than any other politician in the state.

United States Senate

Senator Chuck Grassley

Grade: A+
Official Website:
Twitter: 18,173 followers
Facebook: Friend Total Turned Off
YouTube: 42,938 views, 124 videos

Senator Tom Harkin
Grade: C
Official Website:
Twitter: 171 followers
Facebook: 909 fans (non official fan page 3,479 fans)
YouTube: 12,226 views, 47 videos

Roxanne Conlin
Grade: C-
Official Website:
Twitter: 733 followers
Facebook: 2,294 fans
YouTube: 220 views, 2 videos

United States House of Representatives

Congressman Bruce Braley

Grade: C-
Official Website:
Twitter: 286 followers
Facebook: 1,120 fans
YouTube: 1,421 views, 43 videos

Congressman Tom Latham
Grade: B-
Official Website:
Twitter: 2,679 followers
Facebook: 2,497 fans
YouTube: 2,107 views, 7 videos

Congressman Steve King
Grade: C
Official Website:
Twitter: 1,695 followers
Facebook: 1,495 friends
YouTube: 14,405 views, 159 videos


Governor Chet Culver
Grade: B
Official Website:
Twitter: 1,321 followers
Facebook: 2,562 fans
YouTube: 601 views, 1 video

Bob Vander Plaats
Grade: A
Official Website:
Twitter: 10,062 followers
Facebook: 2,155 fans
YouTube:19,823 views, 400+ videos
(Note: Video selection inventory is currently undergoing new construction)

Terry Branstad
Grade: B
Official Website:
Twitter: 657 followers
Facebook: 1,771 friends
YouTube: 1,672 views, 2 videos

Rod Roberts
Grade: C
Official Website –
Twitter – 287 followers
Facebook – 394 fans / 546 friends
YouTube – 96 views, 3 videos

Third District

While Dave Funk needs to step it up with Twitter, his near 3,000 Facebook fan base catapults him to best grade in Iowa’s 3rd district race. He is also actively on Facebook engaging his base. My challenge to all these 3rd district candidates is to at least match Boswell’s social media web presence and do it in the near future. Zaun is off to a decent start and has the basics covered so far to get the ball rolling, but Gibbons, Rees and Bertroche need to be more active.

If you run for congress you should stand out enough to have more fans on Facebook than the followers total of an average housewife or small business owner. Gibbons has a decent friend total so far, but fans are always better on Facebook. Rees has the basics started, but his very low numbers are less than a shy teenager. Bertroche needs to switch to a fan page fan base on Facebook and start a YouTube channel. For social media in politics it’s a no-brainer to have a YouTube channel.

Congressman Leonard Boswell
Grade: B-
Official Website:
Twitter: 1,348 followers
Facebook: 1,106 fans
YouTube: 1,915 views, 31 videos

Dave Funk
Grade: B
Official Website:
Twitter: 22 followers
Facebook: 2,899 fans
YouTube: 778 views, 7 videos

Brad Zaun
Grade: B-
Official Website:
Twitter: 143 followers
Facebook: 866 friends / 1359 fans – (Sorry to Zaun campaign for not locating fan page at first.)
YouTube: 1,124 views, 12 videos

Jim Gibbons
Grade: D+
Official Website:
Twitter: 74 followers
Facebook: 431 fans/ 1,636 friends
YouTube: No Page Found

Mark Rees

Grade: D
Official Website:
Twitter: 54 followers
Facebook: 161 fans
YouTube: 175 views, 6 videos

Pat Bertroche
Grade: F+
Official Website:
Twitter: 65 followers
Facebook: 350 fans

Second District

Is it grassroots leverage and spirit that allows Christopher Reed to best leverage social media in Iowa’s 2nd district so far? Despite being lowest on the totem pole for fundraising, Reed’s crew is working the internet. His staff and devoted followers are passionate when it comes to passing on news via Facebook wall posts.

By looking at the sheer numbers of Facebook friends it would seems Rathje has the impressive advantage and he does at first glance, but Rathje has friend followers and Reed has fan followers. What is the difference? Well for one, Rathje is now experiencing the no man’s land downside of a profile page. He has hit his 5,000 friend maximum. Unintentionally he has now alienated any new Facebook voter after number 5,000 and flipping his dynasty to all fans will be awkward at this point. It’s a good problem to have, but he will certainly have to retool his Facebook strategy now.

One advantage for politicians to have a Facebook fan page is you guessed it… No max follower count. There are more advantages, but that one will suffice for now. Reed needs to consider merging all his friends into his fan account until it get to far out of hand. We had to do this with Bob Vander Plaats. It wasn’t fun, but the streamline effectiveness is now all worth it.

Miller Meeks is off to a basic start, but she should want to devote time to building her social media sites. Newly announced Gettemy loses a letter grade automatically for having no YouTube and his social media numbers are not making a huge impact yet. Not that quality isn’t important, but this is a race for Congress. If you want to be like Latham and Grassley then take running social media seriously. Reach your base better than your opponent.

Congressman Dave Loebsack
Grade: C
Official Website:
Twitter: 286 followers
Facebook: 1,347 fans
YouTube: 684 views, 8 videos

Christopher Reed
Grade: B
Official Website:
Twitter: 683 followers
Facebook: 1,161 friends / 2,124 fans
Youtube: 828 views, 16 videos

Steve Rathje
Grade: B-
Official Website:
Twitter: 421 followers
Facebook: 4,995 friends
Youtube: 879 views, 2 videos

Mariannette Miller-Meeks

Grade: C-
Official Website:
Twitter: 391 followers
Facebook: 586 friends
Youtube: 2,413 views, 12 videos

Rob Gettemy
Grade: F+
Official Website:
Twitter: 252 followers
Facebook: 287 friends
Youtube: No Channel Found

Written by Dave Davidson

Revised version

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About the Author

Dave Davidson is the TIR artjournalism storyteller photographer and founder of (polite) presidential paparazzi with manners. He is the author of gobs of books including "Sarah Palin Inspires Me", "Huckisms" and "You May Be A TEApublican".

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