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How You Test a Senator's Online Social Smarts

BY Nancy Scola | Friday, August 20 2010

You might have seen mention, in yesterday's Cache, or on Fox News, or elsewhere, of a new study by a firm called Luxury Lab that assesses the "Digital IQ" of the members of the United States Senate. John McCain, it seems, is a social media genius, while South Carolina Republican and Tea Party movement favorite Jim DeMint has driven up his online support through "through aggressive social media tactics." A taste of what the report has to say about DeMint, for example:

In July alone he added more followers than any other senator, growing his base by 3,600 with provocative tweets and an aggressive following strategy (he follows more than 30,000 people versus McCain's 178). The South Carolina Senator has also engaged in media buys on Facebook and tops all senators in number of YouTube subscribers.

It's easy enough to pull out catchy news nuggets from the report -- Conservatives are great tweeters! Republicans are better tweeters! And yet, Missisippi conservative Republican Thad Cochran is, in Internet terms, the dumbest person in the United States Senate! Coverage of this sort of thing is going to cover on the horse race aspects, so for your dose of how this is predicting a huge Republican sweep of the United States Senate this November, go ahead and watch the Fox News clip above. (Details like the fact that John McCain is running for re-election as the senator from Arizona, not supreme leader of Twitter, are only complicating, it seems.) But if you're interested in this sort of thing, you'll want to go ahead and read the report yourself. It's short enough, and clearly written enough, to make it painless to take in. Here, go ahead.

That said, there is one bit of the report worth pulling out. If we're particularly interested in what something like this means for social engagement, then the gritty details of the methodology of this study seems relevant.

So, on that front, just how is this here Digital IQ calculated? Well, it seems as if it consists of four parts, each accorded 25% of the points used to compile a final score: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and blog/website "buzz." For Facebook, what matters is how many people like you and how quickly that number has grown. For Twitter, it's number of followers, growth in followers, and tweet "velocity." For YouTube, what counts is the number of uploads and views. And the last category, what's relevant is blog mentions, a tracking of online sentiment, traffic to your own website and growth in that traffic.

So, in short, each senators "Digital IQ" is based on the sheer volume of his or her online activity, and the ability to get other people to pay attention to it.

Again, the Senate "Digital IQ" study is here.