Social Media – Especially Twitter – Played ‘Yuge’ Role in 2016 Election

This post will be dedicated to Election 2016 and dissecting the Trump victory through social media, especially twitter.

As Washington Post noted last week, social media placed in the hands of regular folks (constituents) allows them to play a more powerful role than the most seasoned lobbyist on K Street. And this observation certainly proved true for the election.

While some content from Trump supporters was laced with insults and brazen attacks (Democrats had the same, if not more, nasty things to tweet about Republicans, mind you), those who effectively used social media to push the message of “Make America Great Again” succeeded in doing so thanks to social media.

Social media is ever-changing and certain platforms like my beloved Twitter may have peaked or reached obsolescence. I say, don’t declare Twitter dead just yet. That would be foolish. Even New York Times admitted Twitter played a central role for Election Day influence:

Election Day was a reminder of Twitter’s influence in media and the distribution of information. While the company is a constant target of Wall Street disparagement for its relatively paltry 317 million monthly users, the site was a go-to for conversation and breaking news about voting activity, malfunctions and results — with the not-so-periodic joke thrown in. By 10 p.m., 40 million posts had been sent about the election, exceeding the 31 million sent on Election Day 2012.

Twitter also remained at the social media center of this election because of the fondness that the Republican presidential candidate exhibited for the service. Mr. Trump’s use of Twitter, including firing off posts at odd hours in the morning, made the service a must-read. In recent days, The New York Times reported that Mr. Trump’s aides had had to wrest his Twitter account away from him.

Yet for how much the presidential campaign has played out on Twitter, the company, based in San Francisco, does not seem to have been able to capitalize on the attention. Twitter is struggling financially and recently explored selling itself. When no credible suitors materialized, the company last month said it would cut about 9 percent of its work force and closed some services, such as the video app Vine.

Here’s another interesting take on the state of Twitter from NY Times:

Historians and media theorists will one day study whether the journalistic corps’s devotion to a platform that prizes cutting remarks over nuance and empathy was ultimately good for the republic. But for news addicts like myself, little of that mattered.

The thrill of Twitter in 2016 was visceral and habit-forming. It was the show that never stopped, the fireworks display you couldn’t keep your eyes off even as it grew dangerously bright and transfixing, and then set the whole town on fire and invited floods and locusts and plague, too.

Trump did better than Clinton with social media engagement, experts have concluded. It also didn’t hurt for Trump to have a high profile solidified by his stint in reality TV. Here’s more context behind Trump’s domination on social media:

He has more than 13 million followers and fans on both Twitter and Facebook compared to Clinton’s 10.6 million Twitter followers and nearly 9 million Facebook fans.

Deeper analysis shows the Trump social media base was more diverse. “Not just Republicans, but also a large percentage of Independents and Democrats, likely the same Democrats who flipped for him in the key states,” Frost said.

Experts believe the Clinton social media game of controlled, scripted and measured remarks just couldn’t keep pace with the shoot-from-the-hip style of Trump. They call his strategy, the new social media model for political campaigns going forward.

Fascinating stuff.

While social media proved ugly throughout the course of this election cycle–the personal attacks by both candidates could have been largely avoided–it still proved to define the electoral landscape–but against the Left’s favor.


Historians will look back on this election and note conventional wisdom need not apply, but social media–for now–will continue to play a role in influencing elections. (So conservatives better become more adept at studying and mastering digital skills.)


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