Within hours of Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida announcing his presidential election on Twitter on Wednesday, audio event attendees celebrated the milestone.
David Sacks, a venture capitalist who moderates Twitter conversations, stated it was “by far the largest space ever hosted on social media.” After the event, Mr. DeSantis, a Republican, said in a podcast interview that he thought that day “probably more than 10 million people” would “watch” the event, which is called Twitter Space, or the recording.
They are wrong on both counts.
According to Twitter metrics, the audio event – which was initially marred by more than 20 minutes of technical glitches before restarting – garnered around 300,000 concurrent listeners, or those who were simultaneously listening to Mr. DeSantis made his announcement. As of Thursday, a total of 3.4 million people had listened to Space or its recordings, according to Twitter figures.
Those figures fall short of 10 million people and are also far from the “largest space on social media” compared to past live streams.
Consider that a 2016 Facebook Live event, featuring two BuzzFeed employees putting a rubber band around a watermelon until it explodes, drew more than 800,000 concurrent viewers and a total of five million views within hours of completion. Pregnant giraffe live streams on YouTube in 2017 generated five million daily views.
Event with Mr. DeSantis was even dwarfed by an audio live stream of the past on Twitter. Last month, more than three million people at one point simultaneously listening to interview Elon Musk, owner of Twitter, by a BBC reporter on Twitter Space, by company number. A room record said 2.6 million listeners ultimately “adjusted”. (Twitter doesn't explain the difference between the number of concurrent listeners and the “set” number.)
“Getting a few hundred thousand people to do something for a few minutes is no big deal,” said Brian Wieser, a longtime media analyst who runs the strategic advisory firm Madison and Wall. “I'm not really sure that using Twitter to announce a presidential campaign is the most impactful environment, although Twitter might be one.”
Determine the reach and audience for Mr. DeSantis on Twitter is important because online events have been heralded as a modern way of making political proclamations, bypassing traditional media like cable news and television networks. But early numbers from Twitter raise questions about whether presidential candidates can ignore traditional media for their big campaign announcements.
While television generally doesn't attract the same numbers it did a decade ago, some live political events still garner large audiences. When President Biden delivered his State of the Union address on February 7, for example, it was broadcast live to 27.3 million viewers on 16 TV networks, according to Nielsen.
Representative Mr. DeSantis, who follows his Twitter Space by appearing on Fox News, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Mr Sacks and Mr Musk also did not immediately respond to emailed inquiries.
That's not to say that using social media to make political announcements can't be effective. Mr. Wieser said that with so much media fragmentation going on, there was no unifying platform and that the quality of the audience was often the motivating factor for politicians. Perhaps, he said, Mr. DeSantis doesn't reach the most people, but it does reach those who are most convinced to donate to her or help spread her message.
Comparing social media reach to broadcast television can also be difficult. “Unique” views on social media represent each individual account who visited a post or other content, not the number of times visited. Such views do not have to be human in origin as bot activity may be involved, and does not indicate whether the viewer is watching for half a second or half an hour. Instead, TV ratings represent the average number of viewers over a longer period, Wieser said.
Twitter also didn't explain the difference in how it counted listeners on its live broadcast and those who had listened to recorded Twitter Spaces.
“Reach on Twitter is artificial: People are getting in and out more quickly, they may be watching on a mobile device which is not as effective as a big TV at getting people's attention,” said Ross Benes, a senior analyst with Insider Intelligence who covers digital video, TV and streaming.
After closing Twitter Space on Wednesday with Mr. DeSantis, traditional media made fun of the event's technical glitches. When Mr. DeSantis appeared on Fox News, Trey Gowdy, host, quipped, “Fox News won't be breaking down during this interview.” The segment attracted nearly two million viewers.
On Thursday, Mr. DeSantis also tried to explain Twitter Space's technical issues. His campaign sent out fundraising emails and flashed T-shirts saying the presidential candidate was “breaking the internet”.
Nicholas Nehamas And John Koblin reporting contribution.