Did news media use social media enough on election night?

Last week I posted a video of Iowa State students describing how they followed Election 2010.  I was surprised by the fairly even mix of people saying they used new media vs. traditional media to follow the results.

Graph showing the analysis of tweets by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism

This left me thinking. Did the news media use social media enough? Were fewer people following online because they just didn’t think there would be reliable results?

I turned to the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism to find some analysis, which worked with Crimson Hexagon to analyze what was being said on Twitter.

I was surprised to see that most of the things being said we calls to action encouraging voters. Some of it was slanted toward one party or the other, but the largest percentage of it was neutral. This left me wondering how many news organizations were using Twitter? Were there just not enough tweets to overpower the general population?

What did local outlets do?

Reviews of the Twitter accounts of The Des Moines Register, KCCI-TV and WHO-TV show mixed results in tweeting. All three outlets provided some results, but none of them provided results for every race that was on the ballot.

The Des Moines Register

The Des Moines Register (@dmregister) provided update throughout the night. In addition to the results that it spelled out, the Register also provided links to listings of additional results.

The following races were specifically addressed in the Register’s Twitter feed:

  • Governor
  • Iowa House District 65
  • Judicial Retention
  • U.S. Senate
  • U.S. House of Representatives – Iowa Districts 1 and 5
  • Constitutional Amendment for Iowa’s Land and Water Conservation Legacy

The Register also gets bonus points for using hashtags in its tweets to increase visibility. It was the only news outlet among the three I examined to do that.


KCCI-TV (@KCCInews) utilized an RSS feed to post tweets whenever it posted a new article. This method got it a few more results on the Twitter feed, but they didn’t include hashtags or interact with the community as the Register did.

KCCI-TV had results for the following elections on its feed:

  • Governor
  • U.S. Senate
  • Judicial retention
  • U.S. House of Representatives – Iowa Districts 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5


WHO-TV (@WHOtv) also used a RSS feed to post stories. They had fewer results than KCCI or the Register and also failed to use hashtags.

WHO-TV had the following results in its feed:

  • Governor
  • Judicial retention
  • U.S. House of Representative – District 3
  • Iowa Attorney General
  • U.S. Senate

The recap

Overall, I’d say the media outlets I looked at didn’t do enough on Twitter. The television stations should have abandoned the use of an RSS service for the night to utilize hashtags in order to increase their tweets visibility and participate in the community discussion. The Register did the best job because it provided links to articles with more results than it was providing on Twitter. It also had conversations with members of the community.

Hopefully we’ll continue to see expanded use of social media in upcoming elections and big events.

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