Twitter becomes new debate spin room

Real-time tweets replacing need for political junkies to wait for pundits to opine after a debate

In the 2012 presidential campaign, Twitter has become the new spin room.

The popular social network stepped up to its new role during Wednesday night's debate between President Barack Obama and challenger Mitt Romney.

Twitter counted some 10 million tweets about the debate and the issues the candidates sparred over, making it the most tweeted-about U.S. political event ever.

"It's all about real-time," said Zeus Kerravala, an analyst at ZK Research.

"Twitter is a real time, ubiquitous spin room that anyone can contribute to. It's no longer about the pundits that the TV stations pick out. Now it's about everyone giving their opinions on Twitter," he added.

Dick Costolo, CEO of Twitter, wasn't off base in January when he said, Gosh, I really think 2012 is going to be the Twitter election."

In years past, people watched political debates and then tuned in to TV news reports afterwards to hear what the commentators and pundits had to say -- or how they'd spin what just happened.

Now, people may can watch a debate on TV with their notebook or tablet computers so they can tweet and post opinions online in realtime. Debate watchers can also get instant opinions on Twitter -- from pundits, from the candidates' campaign operations and from Joe Schmoe.

"In the 2008 election, Obama's campaign got a lot of leverage out of social media, especially Facebook," said Ezra Gottheil, an analyst at Technology Business Research. "Twitter is really more appropriate for time-limited gatherings -- kind of virtual flash crowds."

Twitter as spin room may not change a voter's opinion, but it definitely stirs up enthusiasm and could very well motivate people to actually get off the couch and go vote on election day, Gottheil added.

"Every user chooses who to follow on Twitter, which spin room to enter," said Gottheil. "What [the candidates] hope is that the tweeters and people watching the tweet stream get more enthusiastic, contribute more money, volunteer, and encourage other people to vote."

He added that Twitter this year is having much more influence and is receiving much more attention from the different political camps than in the past.

Both the Obama and the Romney campaigns, for instance, were doing more than tweeting themselves during the debate -- they giving tweet suggestions to followers.

Both political camps set up Web sites that promoted tweets and potential social network postings, giving users suggesed sociaal network posts and tweets.

"I think Twitter is having a significant impact on the election," said Kerravala. "Twitter's reach allows it to influence many more people that traditional methods."

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, send e-mail to or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed .

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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