By Ryan Isakow
50 years ago, over 200,000 people marched on Washington to demand equal rights and economic opportunity. Speakers included religious leaders, students, labor activists and singers – but not a single elected official spoke. Yesterday, some of the most influential politicians in the country took the stage to discuss the achievements of the past 50 years and the progress yet to be made. All of the politicians who spoke saw jumps in their Facebook likes, to varying extents.
Unsurprisingly, President Obama had the largest increase followed by President Clinton – both of their speeches were more heavily featured by the media, and are both have a high level of public exposure from being president. The other speakers look small in comparison, but the increase in their Facebook likes is high compared to their usual intake; the day before the march Marcia Fudge got 3 new likes, Joaquin Castro got 6, John Lewis 32 and Senator King 0. Barack Obama received twice as many new likes the day of the march as he did the day before, and President Clinton went from 2443 new likes the day before to 3371 – an increase of nearly 1000 new likes per day.
Of course, by virtue of having such a large national profile it’s not surprising the presidents received more social media feedback. Barack Obama had over 36 million likes the day of the march; Angus King had slightly less than 4000. A better measure of public exposure would be percent change, which would account for the dramatic difference in preexisting prominence.
John Lewis received the biggest change out of anybody, increasing his total likes by over 2%. As the youngest speaker at the original March on Washington, Rep. Lewis’ presence had a symbolic significance that got attention on social media. This also says something about how we look at changes in social media; raw numbers matter, but preexisting followers make a difference in new followers.
The fact that mainstream politicians went on stage for the 50th anniversary of the March says a lot about how far the country has come. We’re happy to see social media is responding to the rally, and will be keeping an eye on future civil rights initiatives on social media.