The GOP race is well underway, with each candidate vying for top spot when it comes to the 2012 election. And this time around, they’re focusing more attention than ever on social media.

But does the number of people talking about a certain candidate on Twitter really indicate a front-runner in the campaign? Or do the interests of Twitter followers track to the candidate’s positions on issues of the day? We’ve got some insight into how the GOP candidates are faring on Twitter, to try and answer some of these questions.

Social media buzz might not make or break a campaign, but lots of positive chatter certainly can’t hurt. The folks at 140elect.com took a look at the volume of new mentions of each of the GOP candidate’s Twitter handles since mid-September. As you can see from the chart below, Herman Cain is the clear leader when it comes to Twitter buzz.

It’s also interesting to notes that Rick Perry’s Twitter presence took a nosedive beginning in September and leveling out near the bottom in mid-October, while Newt Gingrich saw an opposite pattern, flatlining until mid-October and skyrocketing in new mentions since then.

Also looking at how candidates fare on Twitter, social media analytics company Visibli took a different approach: what are the candidate’s followers interested in?

Visibli took a look to see what percentage of each candidate’s followers were interested in both “News and Politics” and “Business and Finance” in the chart below:

Of the six front-runners, Rick Perry’s followers had the least interest in news and politics, and News Gingrich’s followers weren’t all that concerned with business and finance. Does this track to the offline voters? Only time will tell.

Twitter offers an excellent snapshot into the minds of voters, and when combined with other measures of political success like official polls, can provide valuable insight. Still, the race is still on and social isn’t the only factor driving the successes and failures of the candidates.

(Top image: Lightspring via Shutterstock)