Election in 140 Characters – USA 2016

In 12 months, USA has collectively spent more than 1,284 years reading about Donald Trump on social media.


Illistration by Matt Murph

Not to mention the world.

Now, politics was always a dinner table discussion but with social media, the conversation has spread over an everlasting global feast.

Currently the Republican presidential candidate’s online presence in so unprecedented, that if we were to translate his reach in ads, it would cost him $380 million to achieve that through traditional marketing tools.

And frankly, this would only be a rough interpretation of social media. It doesn’t even begin to cover engagement, conversation, discussion, the 24/7 cycle, a direct pipeline into mainstream media.

Barack Obama was, undoubtedly, the first presidential candidate to effectively use social media as a core strategy in his campaign. His Ask Me Anything on Reddit and extensive use of Twitter as a vehicle for real-time support system, was nothing more than revolutionary.

Eight years on now, it is clear that a long, vicious battle for the White House will be played out online. If the question then was whether to use social media, candidates are now determining how and to what extent.

And if 2008 was the “Facebook election”, how will the race in 2016 be remembered?

This is yet to be answered but if one thngs is sure, it is the fact that the influence of social media in the current election is stronger than it has ever been, and the information pattern it has established will form campaigns for years to come.

All of the front-running candidates have a social media presence, often on more than one platform.

So when Trump fires off the numerous late night Twitter tirade, it gets to more that 3.7 million of his followers.

Bernie Sanders’ hashtag #feeltheBern turned into record attendance at rallies around the country.

The Clinton camp, on the other side, launched accounts on more niche social networks, including Pinterst, Instagram and Snapchat, and even created a Spotify playlist for her supporters.

Long story short – today, social media has evolved from an afterthought to a strategy.

And it has been such a successful one, that it has gone so far as to be a news source and decide the news agenda. Rather than the other way around.

In December, when Trump announced his suggestion to ban Muslims from entering the country, the news generated more social media engagement than any other news about the election since the start of the presidential race.

Trump’s posts remain the single most-responded-to news event since then with around 230,000 likes.

By January, he had become the most talked about person on the planet.


From this it is clear that social media isn’t just an instant circulation/ rating/clicks gold mine. We can clearly see why in an effort to tap the millennial market, politicians have diversified their campaign strategies to fit a 140 character limit.

And it seems to be working.

And if claiming that the successful candidate will have to tweet their way into the Oval Office is a bit too far, we can certainly say social media is already having a considerable impact.

If not for the social media trend in elections, we wouldn’t have known what the Scott Walker’s diet is, the world wouldn’t be same without the odd Twitter Trump-isms, or worse, we couldn’t have seen the Snap of Hillary chillin’.

Social media is certainly something. We are in an era of LOUD and social media is the amplifier.



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