With potential presidential candidates logging onto Facebook -- among other emerging social media platforms -- to garner support ahead of the national election, there's a shadow 2016 battleground shaping up online.
Of the two official candidates for the presidency, Paul, one candidate who has heavily invested in a digitally savvy campaign team, might be losing the Facebook primary so far -- at least, according to numbers released by the social media giant.
In the 24 hours after the Kentucky senator announced his 2016 White House bid, 865,000 unique people on Facebook had 1.9 million interactions -- including likes, posts, comments, and shares -- related to Paul and his announcement.
"Proud to say that my first political contribution in my entire life is to you," one Facebook poster wrote on the Kentucky Senator's Facebook wall.
Another cautioned: "I am hoping you don't turn into the Washington machine....like the rest have."
On average over the last three months, 67,000 people engaged daily in conversation about Paul. Paul scheduled a digital town hall on Facebook after his speech, answering questions ranging from federal deficit reduction to his favorite karaoke song.
The social media platform is an important consideration for Paul, who is determined to engage with young voters on digital platforms. And to prove his social media commitment, the Kentucky senator recently broke ground in Austin, Texas with a new technology-focused office. He's also appeared at the popular South by Southwest arts and tech festival.
But compare these numbers to Ted Cruz, who officially kicked off the 2016 campaign season with his presidential announcement in Lynchburg, Virginia at the end of March.
In the 24 hours after Cruz preempted his live pronouncement at Liberty University with a midnight Twitter message declaring his candidacy, just over 2 million unique people had generated 5.7 million interactions on Facebook -- over twice the Facebook numbers for Paul. In the 90 days before the launch of Cruz's campaign, about 70,000 unique users engaged in conversation about him daily. Cruz's campaign video has been viewed nearly 700,000 times via Facebook.
One Facebook user called the Texas senator "a really intelligent man who deeply loves his country" -- a post on Cruz's wall that alone garnered hundreds of "likes." Another comment -- "The Republican party has left us.The Christian community needs to get off the pew and active - I pray you can shake the church to do so." -- drove thousands.
The issues that came up most often on Facebook in relation to Paul's campaign are tied largely to the LGBT community and to the recent controversy over the religious freedom legislation in Indiana. While several prospective presidential candidates weighed in, appealing to voters on the religious right, Paul has yet to issue a statement on the measure. Behind LGBT issues were foreign policy and international relations -- an occasional sore spot for hawkish conservatives who have tried to cast Paul in an "isolationist" light.
In contrast, Cruz's Facebook chatter focused primarily on foreign policy and international relations, with education coming second, and energy and the environment in third place.
In terms of geographic distribution, it's no surprise that Paul's home state of Kentucky was the state talking most about the senator, followed by West Virginia, the District of Columbia, and the early-voting state of New Hampshire, and then Indiana. For Cruz, District of Columbia residents led in engagement on Ted Cruz's announcement, followed by his home state of Texas. Virginia, Maine, Oregon, and New Hampshire were also interested in Cruz.