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Analysis: Socializing the Election

Virtually every network dramatically beefed up their use of social media for midterm election night coverage, with several networks streaming live coverage on Facebook and YouTube and tweets coming fast and furious throughout the night.

Still, few networks showed much interest in incorporating social media into their linear TV coverage or using data from social media tracking services to stay on top of key trends.

One notable exception was CNN, which teamed with the social media tracking service Crimson Hexagon for a series of interactive pages that used data from social media users to track important election night issues.

As previously reported, Crimson Hexagon is one of several companies that uses highly sophisticated software and some very advanced math to troll through billions of bits of social media content to track trends and consumer attitudes. They work with a number of other news organizations-including Dow Jones-and have worked with CNN in the past to track the reaction of social media users to the State of the Union speech this year.

For CNN's midterm election coverage, Crimson Hexagon supplied data that used to build interactive web pages showing how twitter users were reacting to issues such as the Tea Party and the high profile races in Nevada, Washington, Florida and California.

The results illustrate how social media tracking data is likely to play an increasingly important role in upcoming elections both for journalists and the politicians they cover.

As part of its online coverage of a few key races, CNN built graphs that showed positive, negative and neutral feelings about the different candidates from May until the eve of the election. Users could move a bar along the graph and see how the Tweets trended over time.

While some of the results were obvious -- they dislike the Tea Party in liberal Oregon and like it in red-state Alabama -- much of the data you generally wouldn't find anywhere else.

However, very little of this very innovative analysis seemed to make it out of onto the TV.

All the major networks did however embrace social media as a way of distributing their coverage. Everyone had their own twitter pages and blogs. People who use twitter are certainly not representative of the general population, but you can be sure that political consultants will be pouring over that data for insights into how to manage perceptions of their candidates in 2010.

But more networks than ever were also streaming coverage on popular social media sites. ABC News, which first teamed up with Facebook in 2008, had two live feeds this time around on Facebook--a live feed of its network news coverage and a Town Hall meeting at Arizona State University that featured ABC correspondents.

CBS meanwhile streamed election results on Google's YouTube and users could watch a live stream of NBC News' coverage on their Facebook walls and on