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Campaign tech scorecard: Tracking the candidates online

Doug Gross, CNN
GOP presidential candidates Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul face off during a CNN debate in South Carolina.
GOP presidential candidates Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul face off during a CNN debate in South Carolina.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A month after Iowa caucuses, we look at how GOP candidates are doing online
  • Rick Santorum has doubled his Twitter, Facebook followers since Iowa
  • Newt Gingrich has most Twitter followers; Mitt Romney's most popular on Facebook
  • All are still way behind President Barack Obama online

(CNN) -- On the eve of the Iowa caucuses, we took a look at the Republican candidates' standing in the social-media world -- comparing everything from Facebook "likes" to Twitter followers to YouTube channel views.

Five weeks later, a lot has changed. And the Internet continues to reflect the rapidly evolving GOP race to challenge President Barack Obama in November.

So we've revisited the online activity of the four remaining GOP contenders to see how they're doing in the world of social media and the Web.

Some trends leap right out. From our latest look, former Sen. Rick Santorum has made the biggest social-media leap (it couldn't have hurt that our look came shortly after his three-state sweep on Tuesday).

Viewed as just another candidate in a crowded field going into Iowa, Santorum has more than doubled his Twitter and Facebook follower count since then.

The online love for Rep. Ron Paul continues apace as the Texas outsider continues to gain followers on social sites. But that hasn't yet translated into a primary or caucus win. According to analytics site OhMyGov!, Paul's mentions in traditional media continue to trail the other three candidates. Front-runner Mitt Romney got 75,525 media mentions during the past month, compared with 21,784 for Paul.

Romney and former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich split the two biggest social media sites. With more than a million, Romney has the most Facebook "likes," while Gingrich is the only candidate to top a million on Twitter (More on that in a bit).

To be sure, all of this is a snapshot of a moment in time and is not scientific. Online support doesn't always translate into real-world votes. But with each candidate tackling the Web in their own way, it's an interesting look at who's gaining ground fastest online and who's support may be slackening.

Newt Gingrich

Twitter followers:

Then (just before Iowa caucuses): 1,385,524

Now: 1,436,699

Change: 3.7%

Facebook page "likes":

Then: 224,267

Now: 273,118

Change: 21%

YouTube channel views:

Then: 6,310,555

Now: 8,921,283

Klout score:

Then: 78

Now: 84

Sample tweet: @newtgingrich As an owner of Packers stock, I will begrudgingly root for the team that beat us - the Giants. How about you? #superbowl

Noteworthy: Gingrich has been a heavy social-media user ever since announcing his candidacy in May on Twitter. Despite a couple of hiccups (say, having insiders claim that many of your million-plus Twitter followers are fake) Gingrich has been arguably the most active candidate on the service.

In the past month, Gingrich's Twitter account has posted 1,016 tweets, according to OhMyGov Analytics. That's compared with 168 for Santorum, 115 for Paul and 69 for Romney.

Ron Paul

Twitter followers:

Then: 150,192

Now: 230,648

Change: 53%

Facebook page "likes":

Then: 675,897

Now: 839,792

Change: 24%

YouTube channel views:

Then: 35,591,936

Now: 42,475,650 (Note: Paul has had the account since 2008.)

Klout score:

Then: 75

Now: 80

Sample tweet: @RonPaul Ron Paul's visionary foreign policy: ow.ly/8RdDJ #tcot #gop2012 #NVgop #RonPaul

Noteworthy: Paul had a bit of a weird social-media outing in the past month, going to court to try to expose an imposter who posted a video in Paul's name attacking former rival Jon Huntsman. Using the Twitter handle @NHLiberty4Paul, the persona also attacked Huntsman on that site, claiming he is a Chinese agent. Ultimately, a California federal judge ruled that YouTube and Twitter do not have to turn over the account holder's name.

Mitt Romney

Twitter followers:

Then: 219,425

Now: 328,142

Change: 49%

Facebook page "likes":

Then: 1,267,200

Now: 1,451,416

Change: 14%

YouTube channel views:

Then: No number listed

Now: 4,670,437

Klout score:

Then: 78

Now: 87

Sample tweet: @MittRomney Ronald Reagan would have been 101 today. As we celebrate his legacy, we remember the hope and optimism he had for America.

Noteworthy: The past month has been a mixed bag for Romney, both online and off. He soared to big wins in New Hampshire, Florida and Nevada, but took a drubbing from rivals and some bloggers over his comment that he's "not concerned about the very poor" because they have a safety net in place to protect them. Then Santorum's surprise three-state sweep Tuesday dented Romney's front-runner status.

Romney's campaign has been aggressive, and creative, on social media in recent days, urging supporters to sign an online petition protesting what they call Obama's "attacks on religious liberty." But Romney's own website sometimes damns him with faint praise: "People say he is a 'heartless, uncaring elitist.' I beg to differ. We need @MittRomney," said one follower, in a real-time update on his site Wednesday.

Rick Santorum

Twitter followers:

Then: 52,800

Now: 112,863

Change: 113%

Facebook page "likes":

Then: 42,147

Now: 103,557

Change: 145%

YouTube channel views:

Then: 43,326

Now: 84,341

Klout score:

Then: 70

Now: 79

Sample tweet: @RickSantorum Conservatism is alive & well in Missouri & Minnesota! Thank you to those who voted & worked hard to make tonight happen!

Noteworthy: It's been an up-and-down campaign for Santorum, and his online presence reflects it. With social-media mentions and follows waning, Santorum surged to three wins Tuesday night -- and the next day saw a big spike, according to OhMyGov. Santorum's campaign said they got such an overwhelming response online late Tuesday and Wednesday that their website crashed.

Maybe we should have seen the wins coming. Google is reporting that there was a big uptick in searches for the candidate in the days before his surprise wins.

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