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The unbeatable Trump: time for a shift in Clinton’s social media strategy?

by Tilo Kmieckowiak on June 09, 2016

For a long time, democrat Hillary Clinton has been leading over her republican rival Donald Trump by double digits in the polls. However, he managed to surpass her in late May 2016.

On June 7, Clinton won enough delegates for a nomination as the democratic presidential candidate. But while she is ahead of her competitor Bernie Sanders regarding the number of delegates, concerning his polls against Trump, Sanders would be the more promising candidate. At this point of time, Hillary Clinton seems to be the presumptive presidential nominee. We will, nevertheless, still include Sanders in our social media analysis as he vows to “fight to the end” and also to give a better idea on the basis of things to come.

However, one area where the republican is leading over both his democratic competitors by far is his social media performance. For Sanders and Clinton, it is a bit more of a mixed bag regarding their social media stats. In one field, the senator from Vermont is leading and in another, the former secretary of state manages to achieve the better performance.

Who is reaching the most voters on social media?

When we look at the follower or fan count of the three candidates, it is easy to see that Trump is leading by far. No matter whether it is Facebook or Twitter, the Republican can accumulate around 50% of the total number of fans and followers. Interestingly, regarding this metric, Bernie Sanders is performing better than Hillary Clinton on Facebook, while he is behind her on Twitter.

US Elections Fan Distribution

Who wins the most followers every day?

Like the total count of fans or followers, Trump manages to win the most new people to follow him on both social networks. On the 6th of May 2016 he was able to gain more than 200,000 new fans on Facebook and almost 50,000 new followers on Twitter. This bump happened when he became the presumptive nominee of his party. For Sanders and Clinton, the Fan or Follower Change data is a bit less clear on both networks - sometimes one is leading and sometimes the other. However, Clinton seems a bit stronger than Sanders.

Fan Change Clinton

Creating a dialogue: who gets the most interactions?

In a political campaign, communication with the voters is a valuable thing. In social media, it is thus vital to create a high level of interaction on your posts or tweets. This is the total number of comments, likes and shares on Facebook and the total number of retweets, likes and replies on Twitter. Yet again, it is here where Trump is leading over his democratic rivals. His posts on Facebook often manage to gather around 100,000 interactions on average. While Bernie Sanders is widely leading over Hillary Clinton, he only once manages to reach roughly 100,000 interactions. On Twitter, things don’t look much different. However, the numbers are a lot lower, so Facebook seems to be the better platform for interacting with the voters.

Social media interactions
According to these results, the top 5 posts on Facebook regarding their likes were also dominated by Trump. His infamous taco bowl photo  was the number one post in May 2016 among the three, gaining 614,626 likes. The only top 5 publication by a democrat came from Bernie Sanders, stating his joy regarding the acceptance of Trump to debate with him (which in the end never happend because Trump neglected after all) . On Twitter, things look a bit different. The top 5 tweets are dominated by democrats. However, the most liked tweet was the equivalent to Trump’s taco bowl post with 111,963 likes, followed by a retweeted post from Hillary Clinton.

One of the most handy metrics for benchmarking success on social networks is the comparison between the number of posts of the given profiles versus their total interactions. With this you can see at a glance who is driving a more efficient campaign by reaching higher interactions with less posts. In this example, you can easily see that Bernie Sanders is doing a better job than Hillary Clinton on Facebook. The former First Lady got approximately two million less interactions while she published 25 more posts. Accordingly, the Sanders team seemingly publishes content that leaves his followers more willing to interact. Their republican rival Donald Trump is posting almost as much as Clinton but receives 4.3 times more interactions than she does. Please note that while comparing these numbers, the number of followers always has to be taken into account. If one profile has more fans than another, it is by definition easier to get more likes, comments and shares as you already potentially reach more people. However, in our case, while Sanders has 15.8 percent more followers than Clinton, he also has 32.4 percent more interactions which is double his lead in followers. Thus the interpretation that Sanders is doing a better job holds true.

interactions vs posts frequency

Who is relying most on sponsored content?

Facebook is an advertising power house and not only companies but also politicians use this service to promote their agenda. While the two democrats have a share of around 25% in sponsored content, Donald Trump only comes to approximately 12%. So when comparing his social media performance to his competitors, it becomes even more visible that Trump has a good instinct on how to drive his online success as he is also relying less on sponsored content.

Sponsored Posts Distribution

Facebook vs. Twitter: which is the voter's preferred network?

To allocate financial resources efficiently in a campaign, it is also important to always think of which is the most preferred network among your audience. Looking at the combined audience of all three politicians, Twitter has recently experienced a surge in popularity as it gathered around 75% of the audience at the end of May 2016. However, it remains to be seen whether this is just a short lived effect or a long-term trend. Please remember that a successful campaigner should not forget to have more factors in mind. As shown below, the interaction rate for the combined data of all three contestants is consistently higher on Facebook than on Twitter. The latter might thus be the better choice to reach more people in order to get your message spread. Facebook might be the better choice in case you want to create more of a dialogue through interactions.

audience vs interaction rate

Trump is the winner, but...

While Donald Trump can win in all categories, the situation between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton is less clear. However, the numbers don’t tell everything - they have to be properly interpreted. For example, it cannot be forgotten that Bernie Sanders was far less well known than Clinton and Trump before he entered the race. Keeping that fact in mind, it is astounding how well he is doing in any case.

Donald Trump on the other hand is a phenomenon. Being a real estate billionaire who ran his own reality TV show for years, he has become very accustomed on how to play with the media. His huge success on social networks has thus always to be treated in relation to the fact that many people might primarily follow him for his controversial statements. It will remain a hard task for Clinton or Sanders to counter his polarizing campaign, but is attention on social media enough to win a presidency?
US Election Social Live Stats

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