On April 19th, one of the most outspoken states in the Union voted to pick the 2016 nominations for POTUS. New Yorkers are known for speaking their minds, especially when it comes to politics, and especially on Social Media. Considering that this race included two New York natives and one former New York senator, the race for the Big Apple was a ruthless one.
Being a Social Candidate
In 2016, it’s hard to imagine an election cycle without Social being an embedded communication tool. But only eight years ago, Obama revolutionized how campaigns are run by integrating Social Media into his mix and proving that he not only understood how to deliver a powerful message, but he knows where that message would be best received.
In this very volatile election, Social Media isn’t merely an added bonus to show you are cool or “get millennials” (although they currently comprise 25% of the electorate), it is driving trends and determining the best way to deliver information. For example, a recent study published in the journal Political Communication, reveals that those who live Tweet debates or engage on Social in an interactive way while viewing debates, retain less information than those who just listen. This phenomenon seems obvious, but when you really think about the implications, it is forcing candidates to engage differently, form their messages effectively (short, succinct and Social friendly), and in essence become a walking, talking, politically promising hashtag.
The Bull in the China Shop Social Strategy
This election cycle certainly did not open on an even playing field. Trump is a self-professed (he will tell you over and over) media mastermind who has coined cultural catch phrases like “you’re fired,” discussed his sex life on Howard Stern and forged the whole birther movement against Obama on TV and Twitter. With 7.75 million Twitter followers, Trump has a reach spanning over 3.8 billion people on this real-time channel.
Trump’s strategy is controversial to say the least - actually that is his whole strategy, to shock and awe, break down politically correct borders while making fantastical promises that get every left-leaning liberal up in arms and many red-blooded republicans rallied and ready to follow. By being divisive and garnering what would be considered by some (if not most) bad PR, Trump has motivated a movement by being anti PC and grabbing headlines weekly with his scandalous soundbites and Twitter rants.
Hillary’s Social Makeover
Not every candidate has taken such a risky social media method. HIllary Clinton has served as Secretary of State, State Senator of New York, First Lady and an outspoken advocate for women, the LGBT community and children for years. Before the race had even begun, Hillary Clinton was spreading her reach to new social channels such as Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat in an effort to become more relatable and do some damage control against the ever resounding critique of her “likability.”
Her team constantly produces content that has a viral factor such as sassy GIFS, clever memes and throwback videos of she and Bill to tug on our sentimental heart strings. Hillary also understands the value of engagement. She regularly schedules Facebook Q&As answering her followers’ questions - regardless of how challenging or even aggressive. Clinton’s followers share, post and comment, but definitely lack the passion and fervor of Trump supporters and especially fall flat in the face of her number one opponent in this primary race (other than email-gate, Benghazi and Kate McKinnon), Bernie Sanders.
Bernie Sanders has undoubtedly gained the most traction compared to where he began. For a man who wasn’t aware that the NY Subways no longer accept coins, he has managed to engage and motivate a whole generation of die hard Bernie followers who not only “Feel the Bern,” but manage to annoy every other person on their social feeds with constant posting, dedicated trolling and outright fanaticism. Sanders knows how to align his brand advocates with a fervency that makes you seriously question how a 74 year old man can have such a resounding impact on a demographic almost 50 years his junior.
Bernie’s appeal may not be obvious upon first sight, but his cute Jewish uncle vibe personified by Larry David’s perfect impersonations on SNL has given his altruistic fight against big banks and political corruption the kind of validation required to rally a generation.
Sanders is often criticized for trumpeting a handful of issues and falling short when taken to task on anything out of his wheelhouse. However, knowing what we know about behavior on Social Media, waning attention spans (shorter than goldfish) and the power of a well constructed hashtag, Bernie’s communication style perfect. His Tweetable messages and at their basic core are rooted in commonly held social values. Perhaps by having a message perfectly tailored for our Social Media generation and appealing to the generation who doesn’t know an existence without Facebook or Twitter, have been the greatest contributors to his success.
Social Silence and Social Irrelevance
Unfortunately, Ted Cruz and John Kasich haven’t managed to muster the same Social clout or rally their supporters in as effective way as their liberal counterparts or even Trump. Although all candidates are “showing up” on Social there are definitely better performers than others, and this Social Media performance is reflected in actual polling numbers and even election results. Kasich who appears to barely have a grasp of how Social Media works, is obviously not the author of his own feed. Where is his voice? What is his voice? Who knows, and the polls reflect this.
Poor Ted Cruz can barely get out from under the endless internet jokes, teasing memes or even his newly Trumped up nickname, Lyin’ Ted. There’s a reason that Kasich and Cruz are teaming up, although neither seems to have a full grasp of the channel which is proving to be the most impactful, yet risky. Their faux pas and gaffes gain momentum within hours in a new reality that is unforgiving in the age of the internet.
The Answer to Campaign Spending Reforms
Perhaps Social Media could be the answer to cut outrageous campaign budgets and ridiculous spending that most candidates put on more legacy channels such as email. Email marketing is still the politicians’ go to for garnering support, financially and in the ballot box, but this platform is slowly proving itself expensive, less effective and obsolete.
It is projected that more than half of the $1 billion budget on campaign budgets in 2016 will be spent targeting social media sites. This shows the shift in channel value. Social is the place where candidates are most vulnerable, can let their ‘brand’ shine through, engage with their followers and critics, while motivating the masses. The power of Social Media when used correctly, transcends the need for billion dollar budgets and brings candidates back to focusing on what should be important in election cycles - their stances, their beliefs and their messages.
How New York Responded to the Primaries on Social
Even though Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump came out on top in this very important Primary Race, we have some honorable mentions for the Socialsphere and Twitterverse that proves which politician is really the most #SocialFirst.
The following data was gathered from the beginning of the New York campaign trail on April 9th until the polls closed on Tuesday, April 19th at 9 pm with our best-in-class social listening partner, Synthesio.