The Trump vs. Clinton Social Media Campaign

July 20th 2016:

Although it’s still four months to go it’s already interesting so see how both parties handle social media in their campaigns. It’s now 8 years ago Barack Obama won the elections from John McCain and run a successful web campaign using consumer marketing info to target potential voters based on their predicted interests. At that time social media were new and mostly used by 18- to 29-year-olds and Obama was able to create an online community which could be approached to help with his campaign which was very successful.  For the first time online surveys, data analytics, tailored messaging and even an “online call tool” were used: very innovative at that time!Hillary Clinton

While 8 years ago social media were new and not used by all parties this has changed significant. The most important change is that social media are now used by all and older people are using social media more than young people. And with the Brexit referendum in the UK two weeks ago we saw that older people are more eager to vote and more conservative than young people (nothing new here). The internet has become a primary source of information for a lot of people about what is happening in the world. While 10 years ago you depended on newspapers, advertisements and debates to be informed about what happened during the campaign, now you search Facebook for a summary of the highlights of a debate. Being ‘Online’ you can influence the information you get by managing your own environment and content, when you don’t like it you can block someone or dislike a page managing your own online world.

Another big change is that the internet is now key in both the private and public space. All companies now use online marketing tools and big data techniques and governments are doing the same: a lot of public services are nowadays only available through the internet. This means all political parties now have access to all these tools and don’t have to call or visit the electorate any more but can directly communicate to their potential voters wherever they are online.


What’s will be interesting this campaign is see the difference between the campaign of Hillary Clinton, which probably will be based on the fundaments of the Obama campaign, and the one from Donald Trump who will use his experience from his enterprise background rather than the way the Republican establishment would like him to run his campaign. While Hillary has a big team of 700 people working on her campaign already for more than a year, Donald Trump has no interest in data analysis or a social media strategy and does not want to hire a big staff. Trump’s campaign headquarters at Trump Tower on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue is run by only a dozen paid staffers in the same building where Trump lives and runs his real estate empire. They run his campaign is entirely ad hoc and built on the concepts of mass communication. According to Roger Stone, Trump’s longtime political confidant “The only thing predictable about Donald Trump is that he’s entirely unpredictable.”


At this moment Donald Trump has 10,3 million followers on Twitter while Hillary Clinton with her big staff has only 7,9 million so you can’t say his campaign is not successful. While Hillary Clinton spends a lot of effort in making no mistakes and balancing here strategy to get her target audience satisfied, Donald Trump welcomes mistakes and sees them as opportunities to communicate to his audience and get his message across, he is a master in not answering questions. See for instance his statement at a press conference during the democratic convention where he asked Russia to hack the 30.000 lost emails of Hillary Clinton which got a lot of media attention. The day after he told the press this was a joke and he got away with this.

Quote Trump on Russia hack

Another new aspect Trump has brought to the campaign is bringing his family in during the Republican Convention this week. We are getting to know his family during the convention and by this new “Glamour” campaign Trump is positioning his family for a reality soap which can run for as long as he is in the White House and until he appoints his successor (multiple candidates available in the family!). While his audience loves this you can see traditional media like CNN slowly changing their attitude towards Donald Trump, they know they need a good relationship with him and his entourage once he becomes president to get access to him.

It was interesting to see what was trending during the final speeches of both Trump and Clinton during the conventions; while Donald Trump was trending during his speech Hillary Clinton was not even in the top 10 trending for the US, number one was Katy Perry who was singing just before Hillary’s speech and at place 10 was a quote from Hillary ‘I believe in science’ referring to a quote from Donald who has his doubts. While everybody knows what Donald Trump stands for (“Make America great again”) I’m not sure what her strapline is, it changes all the time.

While Donald Trump is doing well on social media the traditional media like ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC and MSNBC all are against him and pro Hillary Clinton. Following the news in these media you get the message Trump does not have a chance of winning although the polls show otherwise – after the democratic convention this party is always winning. I would classify the difference the Trump campaign as building up the Trump brand through social media while Hillary Clinton is using social media as a way to communicate with her own community and potential voters. Let’s see how both campaigns will further develop and which one will be the most successful but one thing is sure: the Trump campaign is already the most innovative!

September 13th 2016:

What afterwards probably will be the turning point in this campaign was the illness of Hillary Clinton which came out after her visit to the 9/11 memorial last Sunday. She was already sick for three days and did not communicate this to the outside world: probably her team was still discussing how to bring this news external, having a lot of people in your team is not always easy to manage. Trump, tweeting himself, did the only thing he could do: not tweet at all on this issue while Hillary’s team was still twittering on other campaign issues if nothing had happened…

September 26th 2016:

First debate between Clinton and Trump and both Hillary as Donald were winners according to the media depending on their background of course. The days after the debate the polls did not changed much although Hillary Clinton was ahead but with a small margin. Looking at the number of mentions on Twitter for the US Donald Trump was the winner with around 1,9 million mentions against 0,9 million for Hillary Clinton: Trump got most of the attention during the debate. There seems to be a big difference between what the polls are saying and social media traffic which can be both positive and negative as shown in this overview:


October 6th 2016:

Town hall meeting after the video with the female unfriendly quotes from Donald Trump was publisher two days before the debate. Donald Trump was able to talk about all the issues on his agenda during the debate while Hillary tried to focus on bringing her message across meanwhile being attacked by Trump. Again most tweets for Donald Trump, 2,1 million this time, while Hillary Clinton got only 0,1 million mentions, so again Trump is getting all the attention. The first poll from CNN after the debate showed Hillary won with 57% and Trump lost with 34%, this trend was confirmed by other polls that also show a double digit loss for Trump. It looks like Hillary’s strategy is working better than the one from Trump but still one month to go. But why not also making a good analysis on the social media traffic? This would also be interesting and I have not seen it..


November 2nd 2016:

One week to go and the polls show Donald Trump is now not far from winning the popular vote but and has a small chance of winning the electoral vote. While Hillary is working hard to keep the voters who already voted earlier Donald is winning more and more voters who never voted before. Comparing both social media campaigns it looks like Donald Trump is doing better now and although Hillary has a big team helping here campaigning (Obama, Michelle, Kaine, Bill Clinton, Chelsea, etc.) Trump is doing the campaign on his own and still gets a lot of attention. Also:

  • It helped al lot the debates were very early and now almost forgotten because all communication on issues goes through both the ‘old’ and ‘new’ media channels
  • Trump does not spend much money on advertisement in the ‘old’ media but almost all on the ‘new’ social media while Hillary Clinton does both ($17.3 spend by Trump, $96.4 by Clinton)
  • While the Clinton campaign uses traditional media a lot, Trump uses social media so he can set the agenda himself and does not depend on the journalists
  • Because a lot of young people only use the internet nowadays for their news updates Trump is capable to communicate to a new group of voters
  • It was in the news that Trump is also using tools to generate social media traffic, more than a third of pro-Trump tweets were generated by bots, compared with a fifth for pro-Clinton tweets.
  • I heard a Trump campaign manager tell the Trump campaign is based on a “very advanced database”, more advanced then the one used bij the Clinton team.

November 7th 2016:

The final days before the election where probably critical for both campaigns and comparing the Trump wth the Clinton campaign I would say Trump did not have a plan and just repeated what he was doing all along his campaign while Clinton had a Grand Finale with all these politicians and famous Americans supporting her, impressive! A few days before the election Donald Trump suddenly stopped twittering, probably because the team around him has convinced him that twittering on his own did not get him new voters who still needed to decide who to vote for.

But now it’s time that the voters decide, especially the undecided voters in the swing states, they will be the ones who will bring a majority of electoral votes for one of the candidates. This was an unconventional campaign and probably this will also end unconventional. It would be interesting to see what the outcome will be and if the polls were right or that this new world needs new tools to measure the voters outcome. Strange that in a time everybody is talking about Big Data I have not heard much in the press about the outcome of analyzing the voters likelihood of voting for one of the candidates based on social media research.

November 9th 2016

Donald Trumps strategy worked. Despite all the money, the endorsements of politicians and musicians Trump did a great job and a lot of voters decided to support him even in states which everybody thought would be in favour of Hillary Clinton. Trump’s campaign was innovative and from his underdog position he was able to convince a lot of people to vote for him without this being visible in the polls except in the  LA Times/USC Tracking polls which predicted Trump would win fro months using a different way of measering than the traditional polls did.

It would be interesting to further analyse the drivers of the voters and why there was such a big gap between the polls and the final results!

Januari 20th 2017

Since the election Donald Trump kept using Twitter as his primary source of communication influencing political and economical issues and expressing his views on a lot of issues on a daily basis and he will probably keep doing this after the inauguration. With this Donald Trump changed the way the White House is communicating and this will have big impact on traditional media who were always the most powerful media channel. This has changed now because Trump uses Twitter now as primary channel because this enables him to communicate directly with his audience, as Donald Trump calls it: “Bypassing dishonest media”.

So, if you want to keep updated on the news, the first thing you should do in the morning when you wake up is checking Trumps Tweets..

Januari 21th 2017

And I did, next morning I found out Donald Trump now has two accounts: the old one @realDonaldTrump and since yesterday @POTUS, on this account he already posted 5 tweets and one “like” of his old account @realDonaldTrump. This old account has about 20 million followers and his new account @POTUS already 14 million which he got from Obama when he was POTUS. Obama’s account has changed to @POTUS44 with the same number of followers, this because Twitter migrated the accounts from @POTUS to @POTUS44, a migration which was not done correctly according to Twitter, some users complain they were migrated while they never had followed @POTUS before:

So both @POTUS and @POTUS44 have now the same followers which is interesting for Donald Trump because he now has a new channel by which he can directly communicate to the Barack Obama supporters.  With these two channels Donald Trump can now communicate different messages to two different audiences. I’m not sure if the old Barack Obama fans will like this…