Since Hillary Clinton became the official nominee for the Democratic Party, the race for the presidency has exploded on social media. Of late, Donald Trump has taken the lead with a larger and more engaged social audience. An all-out war is starting over social media as each candidate comes to the realization that ‘Facebook Likes’ translate to votes. That’s right folks, we live in a world where social media can determine the fates of 318.9 million people.
Across Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, Donald Trump boasts 23,815,576 fans and followers. Hillary trails him at 15,990,082. If Americans vote the way they click, Donald is headed for the White House.
With the election just three months away, can Hillary close the gap?
Trump Jumps Ahead
Though Trump and Clinton sealed their official nominations within the same week at the end of July, Trump was the presumptive nominee for his party much earlier. From May onwards, Trump enjoyed a months-long head start on Hillary, still battling Bernie Sanders.
Before Hillary became the official nominee on July 26, Sanders followers weren’t ready to rally around her. Republicans, on the other hand, had no choice but to support Trump after the other candidates conceded. On Facebook, the gap Trump put between himself and Hillary in the interim seems too big to close.
Media analyst Crowdbabble ran a data analysis which we’re showcasing below. It includes a comparative study including all social data for both candidates from May 1 to August 22, 2016.
On Facebook, Trump leapt into the lead early and built a base of highly engaged fans. On Twitter, Trump’s engagement rate from May 1 to August 22 was staggering, at 298%; earnest fans along with users entertained by his shocking messaging eagerly retweeted his content.
Over the same period, Hillary had an engagement rate of 175% on Twitter. She lagged behind Trump on Facebook and Instagram as well. On Instagram, Trump has an engagement rate of 654.9% to Hillary’s 583.8%. What is Trump doing right?
#DangerousDonald vs. #CrookedHillary
Trump’s extreme content has helped him stay ahead. ALL CAPS, exclamation points, and slogans dominate his messaging!!! Below, one of Trump’s top posts on Facebook from May to August.
Hillary’s cumulative engagement on Facebook is much lower than Trump’s. Her more nuanced messaging may be partially to blame. Hillary doesn’t post rallying cries so much as she does explanations of her policies and measured requests for support. Hillary’s post on the same day, August 21, received less than half the engagement of Donald’s.
Hillary’s positive messaging is not working as well as Trump’s forceful alarmism. From May to August, Hillary Clinton’s Facebook posts garnered 24,406,535 likes, comments, and shares. That would be impressive if it weren’t 1/3 of Trump’s engagement. In this same period, Trump attracted 73,614,551 engagements. With double the audience and triple the engagement, is Trump destined to dominate on social?
Neck and Neck
Since becoming the official nominee, Hillary’s positive, more nuanced messaging has allowed her to consolidate her previously split strategy: her only opponent now is Trump. Fans and followers have rallied around her on social media as a result.
On July 28, when she sealed the nomination, Hillary borrowed Trump’s strategy of sharing a barrage of posts across platforms. She live-tweeted her speech and each tweet received more than 5,000 favourites. As a result, her follower growth on Twitter spiked.
Hillary totalled more than 1 million favourites and 356,000 retweets for July 28. The explosion fuelled follower growth: on July 28 and 29, Hillary gained 163,394 followers on Twitter.
On Facebook, Hillary has closed the spring engagement gap in engagement with Trump. In the Crowdbabble data visualization below, Hillary overtakes Trump at two points in June and August.
Hillary is now experiencing the surge in social audience that the Donald experienced when he became the official nominee. And #dangerousdonald, as she has called him in Facebook posts, has helped her a lot.
Trump’s campaign has endured a seemingly endless stream of scandals over the summer. In July, Melania Trump was caught plagiarizing Michelle Obama. Two weeks later, Donald was criticized for questioning the sacrifices of Khizr and Ghazala Khan, parents of a fallen soldier. These scandals decimate his lead on social. On July 31, when the Khan family fired back at Trump, his engagement rate on Twitter dipped substantially.
This is all good news for Hillary on social media. With Sanders out of the race, Trump’s fumbling is her only target, and her growth rose to 7.4% on Twitter and 74% on Instagram since July 28 as a result. Trump, in contrast, is slowing down. His follower growth on Twitter is now 7% and on Instagram, 58%. Several scandals on the horizon for Trump could help Hillary catch up: who knows what effect Trump’s tax returns will have?
Building a solid audience of social media supporters that will become voters on election day is crucial for both candidates. Hillary’s engagement rates are higher than ever, but can she close the total audience gap and catch up to her opponent?
Thanks to a series of public gaffes, the follower and fan surge Trump experienced when he became the Republican nominee has evaporated. Hillary is now outpacing Donald Trump in follower growth on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. If Trump experiences the same rate of scandals that deflate engagement, Hillary is positioned to overtake Trump on all three networks before November. That is, unless problems of her own derail her progress.