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In case you hadn’t noticed, we’re in the midst of a presidential election. Donald Trump is the Republican Party nominee and Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are battling to be the last candidate standing for the Democrats. Much has been written about the uniqueness this season of the people vying for office: brash businessman and reality TV star Trump; Vermont’s junior senator, Sanders, who has only officially been a Democrat since last year; and Clinton, plagued by email scandals and more. But for all the dramatic twists and turns that have played out in the news, one thing that hasn’t been touched on greatly has been the role social media has taken.
While the race for the White House is far from over, each of the three major candidates are demonstrating dramatically different approaches and strategies to using Twitter. We at SocialCentiv have been taking a special interest in what Trump, Sanders and Clinton have been up to on the social platform.
President Obama certainly laid the groundwork for the importance of activating grass-roots networks via modern technology in both of his successful presidential runs. Going well past the targeted email campaigns used by pretty much every politician, Obama utilized podcasting, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube—and continued to do so even after the elections were over and he was in office.
Trump has taken what Obama began and raised (or lowered, depending on your political persuasion) the game to a whole new level. Where Obama’s social media team used the accounts to advocate for policy decisions and sometimes chide Republican opponents in the House and Senate, Trump has personally taken to his Twitter (@realDonaldTrump, 8 million followers) to praise allies and attack enemies. The difference in tone between a professional team and a single person’s voice could not be more dramatic, and the speed at which Trump is able to react seems a perfect fit for this age of the “hot take.”
Not to be outdone, Sanders uses his Twitter account (@SenSanders, 1.95 million followers) to help counter the $75 million more Clinton has raised for her campaign, sending out an average of half-a-dozen tweets per day outlining his positions and opinions on a wide range of issues, from decrying big money in politics to raising taxes on the wealthy and ending capital punishment.
The social media team managing Clinton’s Twitter account (@HillaryClinton, 6.18 million followers) is following a more traditional strategy, repurposing material from her website, posting campaign commercials and making calls for donations—essentially everything a campaign from 20 years ago would do in older media, such as TV and newspapers.
Where Trump is responsible for all of his tweets and uses the first-person “I” to make sure readers are aware of that fact, Sanders took a page from Obama’s playbook and has delegated the work to a professional team, excepting those tweets “signed” with a “-B” for Bernie. (Obama would “sign” his with a dash and an “O.”) But even with a team managing his account, Sanders’ tweets feel more personal, at least certainly when compared to Clinton’s. If a pronoun is used on Sanders’ account, it’s the inclusive “we.” With Clinton’s, it’s the more distant third person, although made a little more personal by using her first name.
Will these dramatically different approaches have an effect at the ballot box? It would certainly make for some interesting polling to see which ones resonate with what voters. But one thing is for certain: the Twitter genie is now well out of the bottle when it comes to politics, and there’s no stuffing it back inside.
Photo by coward_lion/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Bernard Perrine is co-founder and CEO of SocialCentiv, an intent-based Twitter marketing firm. For more information, visit http://socialcentiv.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.