Maryland gubernatorial candidates turn to social media to reach voters

When it comes to hashtags, one of Del. Heather Mizeur’s favorites is #Marijuana.

Lt. Anthony Brown uses #veterans and Attorney General Doug Gansler has a healthy appetite for  #oriolesmagic and all things #terps.

In the last year, all three Democratic gubernatorial candidates have embraced social media in their quest to win their party’s nomination.

It was something that was incorporated in their promotion campaigns.

While traditional polls have showed Brown leading by double digits , it’s Mizeur - currently polling in third place - who made the largest impression in the digital world, according to analytics websites.

Supporters believe the lead might be enough to shake up the election Tuesday, just like the surprise victory of Tea Party candidate Dave Brat in Virginia, who beat Republican Rep. Eric Cantor in a surprise upset.

Steven Hershkowitz, spokesoman for Mizeur’s campaign, said the key to their success was using a “personal touch.”

“For the most part, Heather is the one who is tweeting, posting,” he said. “She views it as a way to really communicate and get her message out.”

Hershkowitz characterizes their social media strategy as organic, allowing people to find them and connect.

According to Klout, a website that uses social media analytics to rank its users according to online social influence, Mizeur has a score of 66, followed by Brown and Gansler with 61.

The goal is to reach a score of 100, the perfect score of influentialness according to the site.

Hershkowitz believes her impact  in the social media realm will help propel a win in the Democratic primary Tuesday.

“Polls might say one thing,” he said. “But it comes down to those undecided voters who are hearing our message online.”

When it comes to most frequently used words, Gansler’s included settlement, Maryland and lacrosse.

Brown regularly used the words health, honored and exchange, while Mizeur was frequently using terms like equality, marriage and community.

In the Gansler campaign, Katie Hill, his campaign manager, said they tried to create his presence so that it would reflect his personality.

His whole team works to update his media content regularly.

“He believes in being responsive to voters so we always try to engage with our users on social media channels and respond to their questions,” she said. 

His campaign found that during the debates, posts had a much higher reach.

“We are also the only campaign to use Instagram actively,” she said. 

A spokesman for Brown campaign did not return calls for comment about his social media reach.

Longtime pollsters say the social media influence will have little effect on the predicted winner.

“Polls focus on a good sample size of the population,” said Dan Nataf, professor political science at Anne Arundel Community college. “They are always going to be good indicators of what to expect.”

Of a dozen polls conducted so far, Brown is predicted to be the winner. Gansler and Mizeur have followed at a safe distance.

“It’s hard to break the establishment,” Nataf said. “While Mizeur might  be popular in the social media realm, it doesn’t mean those people are going to vote.”

As it does with most elections, Nataf said if an upset happens Tuesday, it will come down to the undecided voter.

It’s predicted that voter turnout will be low, but anything is possible.

“If a darkhorse candidate actually wins the primary, our polling samples were way off, just like they were in Virginia,” he said. “But that’s rarely the place.”