This strategy in worked in a past debate, where Carson and Carly Fiorina each gained 22,000 Twitter followers — and then saw their poll numbers rise the most.
The idea here is a potential voter clicking on the FOLLOW button for a candidate is a real transaction in favor of the candidate, and could tie directly into "following" them to the polls.
It's more specific and actionable than simply measuring conversations or mentions on social media. Those type of data can be cluttered with people who already support a candidate, rather than new supporters. It might also be cluttered with certain voters who just talk too much on social media, outweighing the opinions of many more quiet voters. As anybody knows in real life, it's one thing to talk about somebody — or a lot of somebodies — and another to actually voting for one.
And of course there are also a lot of mentions that are negative and don't translate to any kind of vote. Several attempts have been made at understanding "sentiment analysis" but this field of research still has some room to grow.
A lot of data experts think this could be the election cycle where social media plays a significant and accurate role in predicting the results. Traditional polling techniques have come into question in recent months, due to the changing nature of people's communication techniques — for example, who still answers a landline phones? This is why people have been looking for additional layers of data to help tell the right story.