Ranking Presidential Candidates on Their Social Media Campaigns
Travel back to the 2008 presidential election. The thought that probably pops in your head is “Yes We Can.” In a time of economic upheaval, rousing political debate, and emerging digital platforms, one thing became clear: The political landscape had shifted and popular culture and politics became more entwined than ever before.
Social media was a major player in making this possible. In fact, some would even say that Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential victory couldn’t have happened without it. Through the advent of platforms like Facebook and Twitter, presidential candidates became more accessible to the population. Celebrities and the media began to influence the country’s opinion in a powerful way, and the masses could publicly voice their opinion beyond the ballot.
Fast-forward seven years and none of this has changed, except now there is even more social ground to cover for presidential hopefuls. Let’s take a look at two potential candidates, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, in the very beginning stages of their campaigns and compare them by their social savvy.
With more than 3.8 million followers on Twitter, Hillary Clinton already has a leg up on her fellow Democratic candidates, reaching this audience six to eight times a day on average. In the past 30 days, she has accumulated more than half a million mentions on Twitter alone. What Clinton seems to do best is utilize user-generated content from her supporters by curating what they post. This type of engagement gives Clinton a chance to take a step away from her platform and build trust and loyalty with potential voters.
In a similar fashion, Clinton actively participates in current events outside of politics and takes advantage of trending topics. This is a no-brainer for anyone on Twitter. To be a part of the conversation, you have to know what’s going on in this country (this is probably a no-brainer for politicians in general, but let’s not get carried away).
Hillary Clinton tweets about the Women’s World Cup:
Areas Clinton Can Improve
From what we can visibly see on her Twitter profile, Clinton has only favorited 63 tweets since joining in April 2013. Can you imagine a big name like Clinton giving your tweet a favorite? A little social love can go a long way for current and potential supporters.
While Clinton’s Facebook page has fewer fans (1 million) than her Twitter, engagement is actually higher. You’ll see a lot of the same evergreen content as you would on Twitter, but messages have been optimized for Facebook. Longer character counts and Facebook-friendly video make it apparent that someone on her staff didn’t blindly bulk-upload the same messages across all networks and hope for the best.
Facebook should definitely be used as platform for community building in an effort to get people talking—almost like a digital grassroots campaign—and that is achieved through open-ended questions and crowd-sourcing content.
Areas Clinton Can Improve
This page could improve on including more calls to action. While the campaign wouldn’t want to constantly overwhelm fans with promotional material, it would be beneficial to direct potential voters to a landing page with more information, a newsletter signup, or a donation page.
To sum it up, Clinton’s social presence is already a powerful force. Not only is she on Facebook and Twitter, she’s also active on Instagram, Snapchat, Periscope, and Spotify—all places where young voters spend their time. Some have even jokingly cited her as potentially becoming “the first teen POTUS.” According to The Washington Post, her campaign kickoff weekend earned 59 percent of all 2016 election social chatter. We’ll see if she can keep up this momentum, but for now we are giving her an A- on her social savvy.
Donald J. Trump comes in only slightly behind Clinton in Twitter followers at 3.13 million, but tweets almost six times as much. Trump’s feed differs greatly from Clinton’s in that it’s positioned more as a personal Twitter instead of a branded Twitter. Almost all tweets are text only, and seem to come from Trump himself. This could be a good thing if users choose to see the approach as being more transparent, honest, and personal, but could potentially backfire if not managed with care.
Trump does a great job on curating content, such as news articles and his supporters’ tweets, which can really keep the conversation around his campaign building through word of mouth.
Areas Trump Can Improve
Trump could benefit from diversifying his content and paying closer attention to detail. At first glance, his Twitter feed is overwhelmingly text-heavy, and his cover photo could be replaced with something more personal. Crafting more visual appealing tweets could make a big difference in engagement—add more photos and videos or include a link so voters can get to know the campaign better. Trump also uses #LetsMakeAmericaGreatAgain and #MakeAmericaGreatAgain interchangeably, but best practice would be to pick one hashtag and stick to it.
Trump has nearly double the audience on Facebook compared to Clinton, and the engagement levels are only further proof that Trump knows how to speak to an audience that is passionate and loyal. Trump also chooses to take a more personalized approach on Facebook and isn’t afraid to lay it all out there. Many of his posts take a clear position and inform the public of his platform.
Areas Trump Can Improve
As with his Twitter, Trump could benefit from having more diversified content. Introducing more video could also pay off in a big way, since video is being shared more than anything else on Facebook. From paying close attention to the conversations on Trump’s Facebook page, it seems that his fans appreciate the candor he displays, but this could prevent him from gaining new fans and alienate critical influencers.
Trump lacks technical social savvy, but his passion and enthusiasm ignites his fans and potential voters to take action. We’ll give him a B+.
As the election continues, we are sure to see campaigns evolve and take new forms, but social media is sure to play a prominent role in the success of a seasoned campaigner like Clinton or a passionate businessman-turned-politician like Trump.