TAMPA, Fla. (CBS4) - Social media is more important than ever and Republicans are using a lot of it to get their message out now that TV networks have scaled back their coverage of the Republican National Convention.
President Obama harnessed some of the power of social media in 2008, but this is the first presidential election where both campaigns are using it extensively.
In 2008 there were 360,000 tweets during the two weeks of both party's conventions. This year it's triple that number every night. There were nearly 6,700 tweets per minute during Paul Ryan's speech.
"For the first time at this convention viewers at home have been able to experience it through the eyes of members of their own community; delegates and volunteers and others who are on the floor taking pictures of the moments that matter to them, sharing that experience in their own voice," Twitter Political Director Adam Sharp said.
Sharp said sites like Twitter have been able to let people at home feel like they are part of the experience.
"Wild applause in the hall, wild reaction on Twitter," he said. "We're measuring tweets per minute trying to get at what moments are causing people to react."
The Twitter Political Index measures users opinions expressed in tweets about the candidates. Facebook has tools showing the number of people talking about candidates in real time, trends about what's being said and what demographic is saying it. Google is tracking top searches as the convention happens.
The importance of the digital media hasn't escaped convention planners.
"Full-time blogger, we have a full-time digital tech person who integrates Facebook, who integrates Twitter, looks at YouTube, updates the website," Melissa Sellers with the RNC said.
Sellers said social media not only allows them to take their message directly to voters, but to gauge whether that message is effective.
"So you see what gets people excited in an immediate way that we've never been able to do before," Sellers said.
The RNC even designed its set to integrate social media with a ticker displaying Internet posts and tweets. If 2012 is the convention without walls, it's a wonder what 2016 will be like.
"I'm not going to make any big projections for 2016 other than to say that this conversation is going to continue to expand," Sharp said.
CBS4 is using all venues of social media. Visit a special page on CBSDenver.com to read all of Political Specialist Shaun Boyd's tweets and see the pictures that photojournalist Rob McClure has been posting.
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