Enduring the shockwaves of a reality TV host going head-to-head with what could be the first female president of the United States, this election season has left a memorable mark on social media.
With the 2016 election at a highly anticipated conclusion, taking a closer look at the conversation on both sides sheds some light on the darker—and alternatively clever—aspect of social media. Both candidates have leveraged their channels in ways that speak to their target audiences, with Donald Trump often blurring the lines between candor and showmanship, and Hillary Clinton calling her opponent out on that very fact.
Vying for the loudest voice on social.
Through the entire election cycle, Trump’s social media claim to fame has been his incendiary posts directed at opponents, the media and politics in general. Clinton, on the other hand, has retaliated by tossing back facts—or sometimes the occasional witty tweet and viral video challenge to resonate with Internet-savvy audiences.
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) November 8, 2016
But it hasn’t all been fun and games for the two powerhouse candidates. Trump’s occasional angry, late-night tweet storms have pointed out his human flaw as someone easily riled up and provoked by opposition. Those micro-rants reached a tipping point when Trump’s aides reportedly took over his Twitter account to rein in his social media voice. For her part, Clinton’s presence on Twitter has sometimes been overshadowed by angry Trump supporters using the hashtags #LockHerUp, #NeverHillary and #HillaryForPrison.
While Barack Obama and Mitt Romney were the first successful candidates to tap into the power of social media for their 2012 campaigns, today’s election has made waves online. Clinton and Trump are reaching millions of followers—over 20 million combined—with targeted video ads, fact-checking tweets and viral content like Clinton’s #TrumpYourself campaign. As a result, everyday voters are feeling the heat from that blazing social media fire.
The stressful nature of political posts.
Both Trump and Clinton might have done all that they could to saturate their social followings with the right messages, but the election as a whole has left everyday voters feeling anxious. According to a recently released report by Pew Research Center, 37% of social media users feel worn out by the amount of election-related posts they see on their feeds.
In addition, 59% find it stressful to discuss politics on social media with others who have opposing opinions. This frustration leaves 83% of social media users ignoring a post altogether when they disagree with the message.
What spurs these stressful social conversations? According to the same research by Pew, 40% of people feel strongly that social media facilitates a greater sense of free speech, and users are more likely to say things online that they would not say in person. This melds perfectly with Donald Trump’s tendencies to speak his mind on social and truly resonates with his enthusiastic followers, giving him an edge on platforms like Twitter and Facebook. The loudest voice has garnered the most spirited support in today’s election.
Boosting campaign conversations with bots.
Bots have the bullhorn, too. The second presidential tête-à-tête was the most tweeted debate in history, amassing an impressive 17 million tweets. Unfortunately, like with some big brand social strategies, a portion of the tweets likely didn’t come from real people.
Reports surfaced earlier this year claiming that both candidates have been amassing Twitter bots, with Trump leading the pack in fake followers. Recently, The Atlantic dug into the data and discovered bots supporting both presidential candidates on Twitter. One bot in particular has over 33,000 followers and spreads anti-Clinton messages across the Twittersphere, padding the pro-Trump chatter. Backed by a less impressive following, another bot retweets all of Donald Trump’s mentions that contain the word “loser” to spotlight negative comments directed at the candidate.
With the ability to blend in so seamlessly on social feeds, these bots present the opportunity to fan the flames and add to the ever-present sense of mob mentality online. While they may build up a grandiose appearance through followers, bots only hurt the state of truthful and productive discussion on social media, especially for a topic as important as the presidential election.
Crossing party lines with good content.
Shady bot tactics and irritations aside, such a high rate of political chitchat on platforms like Twitter and Facebook presents an opportunity for crafty content. Some savvy marketers successfully joined the 2016 election conversation through playful brand messaging. Take Excedrin, for example, which placed a promoted post on Twitter’s trending topics list just before one of the heated debates.
Displaying wit and humor that poked fun at a universal frustration changed the tone just enough to gain Excedrin some valuable engagement. The brand proved that, even amidst tense exchanges, there is room for creative content and a lighthearted approach to political discourse. As we look ahead at the future of digital campaigns, here’s to a more constructive conversation during 2020’s election—for marketers and avid social media users alike.