New York (CNN) - If social media were the metric by which elections were won or lost, President Barack Obama would have little to worry about come November.
"I think it will literally make the difference," said Joe Trippi, a Democratic strategist who helped orchestrate the campaign of Howard Dean's failed bid for the Democratic nomination in 2004, after a presentation at the Social Good Summit here.
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As of Saturday night, the incumbent had garnered 28.8 million Facebook "likes" and more than 20 million Twitter followers, compared with 7.1 million "likes" and 1.16 million followers for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
"They got left in the dust," Trippi said of the Republican campaign.
But Leonardo Alcivar, the online rapid response director for Romney's campaign, was unimpressed. "If the number of Twitter followers and Facebook friends determined the election, Justin Bieber would be president," he said. "Our supporters are very engaged."
"Justin Bieber's not running," Trippi deadpanned.
He said the role of social media has ballooned since he worked on the Dean campaign. In 2004, "Facebook barely existed," he said.
Even four years later, Obama had just 2.4 million likes, he said.
As the numbers have grown, so too has the campaign's ability to use them, he said.
Two or three states "could look a lot like Florida did in the year 2000," he said, referring to the tight vote that wound up being put in the Republican column, resulting in George W. Bush's victory.
In any future such cases, Obama's social media mobilization efforts could prove decisive, Trippi said.
"If people knew how much these two campaigns know about you and the data you've turned over to them, you'd turn your machines off - and I mean that quite literally," he said.
For example, it might be possible for the Obama campaign to cull through those Facebook "likes" for undecided voters and identify those who have seen "Oceans 11," then target a message from actor George Clooney, who supports Obama, Trippi said.
Or an undecided voter may wind up receiving messages from five of her friends urging her to vote Democratic, he said. "That's more powerful than the paid ad Obama's spending money for on TV," he said.
Alcivar described as "incredible" the level of engagement the Romney campaign has created with supporters. "Twitter tells us a lot. We put a tremendous lot of resources in the Romney campaign to make sure we are focusing our communications efforts on reaching people directly," he said. "We know where the country is; we know there's a huge desire for change."
Who has how many social media followers is meaningless, he said. "The Obama campaign loves to engage in vanity metrics. They sound good but don't matter."
Trippi said both parties' campaigns have failed to use the media as much as they could because they want to keep a tight rein on their message. "I think they're way too careful ... I think both campaigns have suffered."