If you came here thinking you were going to read an opinion piece on which presidential candidate we think is best fit to be our next president, sorry to disappoint but this is not one of those blog posts. Don’t worry, we wouldn’t do that to you, because like most of you we are also already sick of the 2016 presidential election invasion. So instead, let’s look at how social media is contributing to each candidate’s current standing. But first, we must take a look at where social media is today to see how people are using it.
The current world of social media seems to be more of a black hole, where users get trapped in the mountainous options of pet videos and viral crazes. Will we ever know the mysterious colors of “the dress?” (Ed. note – It is blue and I will fight anyone who says differently.) And the newest fashion fad, white Vans thanks to that Daniel kid. We live in an age where pets are now being recognized as celebrities and profitable product endorsers. And let’s not forget those appetizing food videos, where users spend valued time watching videos of someone creating a “Tasty” dish that they have all the best intention of making, but in reality the chances are slim that it will make it to the table.
With all the alluring trends that filter through our news feeds, social media provides to be the perfect playground for presidential candidates to showcase everything from their opinions on legitimate issues to who has a more attractive spouse. With usage of various social media platforms unsurprisingly growing in popularity, especially for millennials, why wouldn’t the candidates take advantage? According to the Pew Research Center, 10 years ago only 7% of the US population used one or more social networking sites. Now that figure has increased almost tenfold, to 65%. Of those who use the internet, a massive majority of 76% of Americans use social media. Young adults still lead the pack with 90% of social networking users aged 18- 29. These large percentage of users along with real time date candidates are able to measure mentions and sentiment to determine what their fans like and more importantly dislike about them.
The 2016 presidential race thus far seems to be the most interesting in regards to how the presidential candidates are using social media, especially in regards to how they are being portrayed. Trump is the leader on both Facebook and Twitter in followers, with Clinton in close second on Twitter and Carson on Facebook. But does this determine who will be our next president? Although we cannot be sure based on just social networking, we do know that this played a role in the 2012 presidential election between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. Obama had a significantly larger amount of followers on both Twitter and Facebook and was more actively daily. 35% of registered voters feel more personally connected when following a political candidate, Pew research states, as well as 26% of registered voters find information from politicians’ social networking sites “more reliable” than that of traditional news organizations.
What is nice about social media is that for the majority of opinions and reactions, they are coming from real people online and are organic in that nobody asked them to say what they said about a particular candidate. Donald Trump currently holds the vast majority of conversation on social media, but Bernie Sanders has the highest net sentiment. If you look into social analytics during each caucus and who has the most mentions in relation to a high net sentiment percentage, it is clear to see who will have a better chance at winning a certain state. Candidates could certainly utilize social in the way an e-commerce does if they see their voters as consumers and measure conversion of people interested in their “brand” and turn them into a vote.
Even though we are just scratching the surface with analytics on how social is contributing to the race, there is no denying social media’s role in this year’s election. The presidential race also has definitely spiced up the content that people are investing their time on social networking. Between all the funny animal videos, celebrity scandals, timely sports news and passing fads, this presidential election is getting millennials talking and sharing their views, good and bad, in regards to something that will have an effect on the future of America. If candidates can get their social fans out to vote, they will have a much better chance at winning than if they sat back, grabbed the popcorn and watched the media frenzy for the purpose of entertainment. So as much as we would like to run away from the media during this political heavy time, make sure not to tune out what is happening on social networking sites.
Elise Braun is a digital media specialist at KK BOLD and votes with her hashtags, which is not legal in any of the 50 states.