The Heightened Relevance Of Twitter In The 2016 US Presidential Election

Election 2012:

2016 is not the first time that Twitter has been cited as being relevant for elections. Back in the year 2012, the U.S. presidential election was known as the “Twitter Election”, and for good reason; never before had so many tweets been exchanged prior to an election.

In fact a blog was published by Twitter tracing the sentiment index with regards to the presidential candidates Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. The sentiment index indicated the tone that Twitter conversations took with regard to the candidates.

Once when addressing a rally Obama used the term Romnesia, his campaign team went on to promote #Romnesia hashtag on Twitter and this particular speech received over 500,000 views before Election Day.

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Relevance Of Twitter:

The kind of response that the tweets received caused politicians and reporters to take notice. Twitter was a place that couldn’t be ignored.

Political operatives and reporters also glued themselves to Twitter. It was a place those covering the campaign could not afford to ignore and, as a result,“winning the Twitter battle” became a obsession among the campaigns’ communications teams. Win there, the thinking went, and your perspective would win out on TV, in print and the rest of the web. Perhaps because of these high stakes, it was not uncommon to see communications folks from both sides battle via @reply. [1]

Twitter has only seen an upsurge of followers thenceforth. And both candidates for presidential election 2016 have experienced an incredible growth in the number of Twitter followers which continues to augment with each passing day.

As of July this year, @realDonaldTrump had 10,267,655 followers, placing him in 177th position among the global Twitterati. If elected tomorrow, he would be the third most followed world leader.

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With her 7,765,519 followers @HillaryClinton is in 275th position worldwide and would be the fourth most followed world leader. [2]

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The sheer power that social media holds over our society has caused the presidential candidates to allocate over 9% of their advertising budget towards digital and social media in order to attract the millennials (people born between the years 1977-2000 and responsible for 25% of the U.S population)

For many candidates, the capability to tap into the millennial demographic is an important component of their efforts on social networks. Millennials are the bulk of users on many of the most popular niche social sites.

Posting on niche social networks can help candidates stand out to millennials, according to Betsy Sigman, distinguished teaching professor at Georgetown University‘s McDonough School of Business. [3]

Tweets Are A Form Of Marketing Gimmick:

Given the huge number of Twitter followers that both candidates enjoy, the excessive tweets exchanged this year does make sense. It allowed both Trump and Clinton to make headlines in no time.

However, tweets on Twitter are not random regardless of how random it may seem. It is the result of a carefully executed strategy.

When there is a controversial tweet by Trump, his team is building on a certain image for that candidate. When Hillary Clinton’s high school pictures appear on social media, it is an attempt by her promoters to ‘humanize’ her presence, thereby softening her image in the eye of the public.

This is nothing but an attempt to stand out. It’s not all about getting the young generation to vote but also about buying a piece of the public’s mind such that one individual would influence another to vote.

Most of the time, social media is a good indicator of voter sentiment toward a particular candidate but it could be misleading as well, for a scandal involving any candidate could lead to a plethora of tweets. This could indicate a surge in interest, however, such publicity is negative publicity and is not really an indicator of the voter strength of the particular candidate.

Tweets Are An Invaluable Source Of Data:

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The utility of social data derived from tweets is invaluable. It gives a quick social picture of prevailing outcomes and people sentiment. It is cheap as one wouldn’t have to spend the kind of money that goes into deep research via polling. It is real because these are real tweets by real people who make real choices in real time.

“What social data does for us is it gives you not only a huge panel of people talking about either a show, or in the case of this weekend’s primaries and caucuses, issues and candidates, but it also gives it to you in seconds,” said Chris Kerns, vice president of research and insights at social-media marketing platform Spredfast. “That panel is still going to be skewed based on the people that are on Twitter and the people that are talking about politics, it’s still 1,000 times better than the old model.” [4]

Twitter is quicker and faster than traditional polling. It can pick up breaking news and last minute interest surges for a particular candidate who may not be doing that well. It’s a lot of information. With an overabundance of information it all boils down to, “Who is deserving of my attention?” Twitter allows everybody to get involved; right from the presidential candidate to the reporter to the voter.

Twitter Fares Better Than Other Social Media Platforms:

Facebook as a social media platform decided to get involved in the presidential elections, encouraging political posts and debates, but it failed to create frenzy like Twitter. This is because a lot of posts remained restricted within a very shallow social circle of family and friends.

Twitter and Google, being public platforms, have managed to do better than all the rest.

Conclusion:

Engaging with an audience is important because voting for a candidate may not always be based upon logic but on the voter’s personal likes or dislikes.

For many voters, “[i]t’s about ‘How comfortable do I feel with that particular person? How trusting am I of that particular person? Would I want to have a beer with that person?,'” Jasso says. “Social media is a good way to show that.”

Adam Sharp who is Twitter’s head of Government and Social Innovation, apparently remarked that Twitter was the “New Town Square”. Discussions that would have normally occurred in open spaces or coffee shops or in the quiet of one’s house now find an outlet in the form of Twitter. People share their political views and give vent to their opinions.

“Imagine someone on the other end,” Sharp said. “Maybe they’re waiting for the bus or going through the supermarket and they ask a question, then they get an answer and see video of the president on a laptop considering and typing. That I think is a very profound image.” [5]

Twitter is a new tool for presidential candidates but it is here to stay, for it provides benefit to both the candidates and the voters alike. It is relevant for U.S. Election 2016 and will continue to remain relevant for a long time, surpassing every other social media platform in its wake.

Submitted By : Kashif Jamil (kashif@datacusp.com)

Contact No. +1 201 258 4704 (NJ, USA)/+ 91 33 66157400 (India)

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Footnotes:

[1] 2012 Wasn’t the ‘Twitter Election,’ But Watch Out for 2016 – MediaShift

[2] Hillary Clinton v Donald Trump: who’s winning on Twitter?

[3] Why social media could swing the 2016 presidential election

[4] What Google and Twitter Can Tell Us About 2016

[5] 2012 Wasn’t the ‘Twitter Election,’ But Watch Out for 2016 – MediaShift

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