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This week’s Surfin’ Safari takes a look at how social media, specifically Twitter, has become an integral part of the political process, with a whopping four million tweets that swarmed the Twitterverse during last week’s Republican National Convention.

Two million-plus tweets were issued when vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan took the stage at the #GOP2012 convention – six times the tweets sent about the 2008 conventions combined.

According to Twitter’s blog, “A big part of that conversation was people tweeting Ryan’s most quotable moments.”

In fact, Ryan’s “faded Obama posters” line immediately inspired a Twitter parody account:@FadedObama.

The end of Ann Romney’s speech attracted the highest Tweets per minute spike of the night – 6,195 – when her husband and presidential nominee Mitt Romney joined her on stage. To learn whose speech inspired high spikes in conversation for the night, click here.

Much of the increase in tweets is attributed to the rising numbers of middle-agers who’ve become more adept at using social media.

TV news coverage of last week’s 2012 GOP Convention in Tampa made frequent mentions of how the Twittersphere was abuzz with instant reaction, providing indicators that showed the public’s reaction to various speakers and topics, thus encouraging even more people to join in the Twitter conversation.

Fox News’ Digital editor Chris Stirewalt and the digital media staff at Fox News gave on-camera reports during the convention, updating viewers about social media usage and telling viewers how Twitter’s new political index works.

“The people at home will finally get to have their say. Twitter will be monitoring … and it’s a unique technology. It analyzes the sentiment of Twitter users about political figures, it gives them a score for their positive or negative tweets about them. ‘What does Twitter think of them?’” Stirewalt reported.

Twitter collated and measured the number of positive tweets versus negative ones about any given convention speaker, which gave campaign strategists instant feedback about voter sentiments, enabling them to tweak their messages and voter outreach efforts. The Twitter Index, or “Twindex” also enabled analysts to look at various segments of the country to sense the “mood” or sentiment about a certain candidate or speaker, using measurement tools that instantly captured voters’ feelings, especially younger voters, according to Clayton Morris of Fox Business News.

Twitter also allowed folks at home to participate in real-time “behind the scenes” activities of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney via photos that were tweeted by Romney staffers, including one of the nominee looking over his acceptance speech on his iPad.

Twitter’s own blog reported, “While most people joining the conversation on Twitter couldn’t be here themselves, they were brought closer to the events of the evening and the candidates thanks to the tweets from Tampa. Tonight we saw incredible behind-the-scenes pictures documenting @MittRomney readying himself to take the stage and accept his party’s nomination.”

The Republican National Convention totaled four million tweets at the culmination of the convention, specifically at the conclusion of presidential nominee Gov. Mitt Romney’s speech. Twitter’s analysis showed that Gov. Romney’s speech attracted the three biggest conversation “spikes” of the GOP convention, the highest at 14,289 Tweets per minute at the end of his speech; the second highest (13,267 tweets per minute) at the mention of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Following Romney’s speech, Obama’s Twitter site @BarackObama issued a tweet and photo which read: “This seat’s taken.”

Twitter also reported that Marco @marcorubio Rubio’s speech earned the second highest numbers in the convention conversation, spiking at 8,937 tweets per minute.

“Eastwooding” the invisible Obama

Clint Eastwood’s controversial and hilarious remarks earned the famed actor/producer/director the third highest spike, with 7,044 tweets per minute and a new sobriquet: “Eastwooding,” to indicate someone who speaks to an empty chair.

Twitter reports: “One creative response to Clint Eastwood’s moment onstage with the empty chair was the creation of@InvisibleObama, an account providing voice to the unseen president. In just 45 minutes the account had gained over 20,000 followers and had been mentioned over 10,000 times on Twitter.”

An app enabled mobile device users to watch the convention live, and a YouTube page where visitors could chat about the unfolding convention events. Electronic screens on the convention stage were utilized to display Twitter tweets and Facebook posts.

Google set up shop at the convention center, providing candidates and their surrogates with opportunities to get their message out unfiltered by traditional media to their voters, who spread those messages to others at no cost.

CBS News reported, “‘For the first time ever, the RNC will live stream the entire convention on its YouTube channel. … Google and YouTube are transforming the political process, providing voters an unprecedented degree of participation and, for the very first time, giving every American who has access to a computer, tablet, video gaming system, interactive television or video-enabled smart phone an exclusive backstage pass to the podium of a national political convention,’ said convention CEO William Harris in a press release.

“Social media has grown immensely since the 2008 elections,” continued the CBS report. “Aside from the obvious Facebook, Twitter and YouTube profiles, the RNC also has official Instagram, Google+, Pinterest and Foursquare accounts – services that weren’t around during the last election cycle. Instagram users can view convention photos using the ‘Convention Without Walls’ Facebook app or by searching GOPconvention on the mobile app.”

And that’s got to be making traditional legacy media a little nervous. Imagine the reach social media will have in future elections and how that will cut into their viewership.

Bits & Bytes

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