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Facebook's Election Day Pitch

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As Americans cast their votes in Tuesday's presidential election, Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) sits in a position of being a social networking industry veteran after playing a key role in grassroots efforts during the 2008 campaign. Still, for Facebook's investors, the presidential election may turn out to be a referendum on company's earnings prospects, as it bids to increase its relevance in a social media landscape marked by the rise of Twitter.

A quick visit to Facebook shows that as polling stations open for the 2012 presidential vote and scores of Senate and Congressional campaigns, the company is taking this year's election very seriously.

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At the top of the billion-member-plus social network is a button that allows users to find their polling stations and show friends and family they are voting. "It's Election Day," Facebook.com reads. "Tell friends you're voting in the 2012 election and find out where to vote," the button goes on to add.

Already as of the early afternoon, Facebook users can see who in their network has said they've voted... and impute who hasn't.

Meanwhile, Facebook has launched a separate Facebook Stories site to track voting in real time. As of early morning, the site has over 160,000 likes connecting back to its flagship network. What remains to be seen is how the site's data will play into Election Day coverage once polling stations close.

While election year buttons and dedicated sites may be about trying to deliver on chief executive and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg's get-out-the-vote mission, there's also real money to be made. The 2012 presidential horse race comes at a crucial time for Facebook as it tries to prove to advertisers and investors that its platform can work in an increasingly targeted and mobile media world.

When the the 2012 presidential race ends, tech investors and analysts are likely to closely scrutinize how Facebook and Twitter perform on user traffic, advertising revenue, and mobile usage. Results are likely to be a key gauge for investors as they handicap who will be the winners and losers in the social networking space in coming quarters and years.

Since late October, Facebook is riding a wave of revived optimism on the company's shares and earnings outlook after its first months as a public company were mired by falling share prices and concerns of slowing growth and user interest.

The company's shares surged over 20% after reporting third-quarter earnings that showed Zuckerberg & Co. were making progress on mobile efforts and the network's overall usage increased.

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