It’s easy to say that social media is going to be a bigger player in this Presidential election than ever before. It’s really only been prominent in two of them and it only played for one side in 2008. In 2016, the importance of social media for determining the next President isn’t just going to be bigger. It’s going to be (as candidate Donald Trump would say), “Yoooooooge.”
It isn’t just the size of the social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram that comes into play. Compared to 2012, the investment of time and personality into social media is greater by a factor more prominent than the increase in users. People use social media more often and they’re more engaged. It represents a bigger part of their personality. A good number of people put everything they want the world to know they feel on social media and politic opinions are definitely something that many want the world to know.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 27, 2015
There are plenty of people who will avoid it altogether. We’re already seeing people making statements on their social profiles that they don’t want to hear about politics, that social media is for fun, that they’re going to “unfollow” or “unfriend” anyone who is flooding their feeds with political speech. This will grow as we get closer to the election, but it won’t grow nearly as fast as the other side that just won’t be able to help itself but to post about their candidate of choice.
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) October 27, 2015
Social media will not eclipse television as the primary source of information where voters learn about candidates, but it will support the influence of television live during events such as debates and it will prolong the discussions to extend beyond the morning talk shows and radio commentaries.
— Ben & Candy Carson (@RealBenCarson) October 27, 2015
The election also represents an opportunity for sites to expand their reach through social media. A post about Ted Cruz yielded over 1000 Facebook shares and 300 Tweets on a site that normally gets a few dozen of each, while another Ted Cruz post on an even smaller site had over 6000 Facebook shares and 400 Tweets. The polarizing aspects of social media gives small sites a chance to expand beyond their humble status, if only just for a post or two.
This campaign is sending a message to the billionaire class: you can’t get huge tax breaks while children in this country go hungry.
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) October 27, 2015
Right now, the biggest players on social media based upon mentions (since “likes” and “followers” are basically meaningless numbers anymore) are Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders for the Democrats while Cruz, Ben Carson, and Trump are getting all of the buzz for Republicans. To be fair, Clinton and Sanders are the only viable candidates for the Democrats, but the Republicans have several within striking distance of the nomination. Those who are not fairing well on social media according to Ad Week, namely Carly Fiorina, Jeb Bush, and Marco Rubio, are top contenders but are getting as much negative as positive when it comes to mentions.
Cruz is the enigma because he doesn’t get the same play on his own profiles but his base dominates with their own social posts.
Social media represents passion rather than simply support. This is why Trump, Carson, and Cruz are performing better than their competitors. As the field narrows and the election approaches, we expect to see friends and foes fighting furiously on Facebook and Twitter.