Influencing the Election: Social Media’s Role and What It Means for Your Business in 2017.

Remember your Facebook feed during the elections? Did anyone de-friend you or did you de-friend anyone?

Social media has become so much more than just sharing pictures of your kids. It is now a place to share everything from where you are to what you’re doing to how you think, and who you are voting for.

Regardless of your political affiliation, one thing was certain, if you checked Facebook anytime during the election, you were inundated with political posts.

Donald Trump may have had the most divisive online presence of any candidate in modern history. Divisiveness notwithstanding, his use of social media undoubtedly helped get him elected.

Digital Marketer in Chief?

“Donald Trump” was the third highest searched term (coming in after Pokémon Go and iPhone 7) and the top searched person globally on Google in 2016.

In his post-election 60 minutes interview, he acknowledged the role social media played:

“It’s a modern form of communication. There should be nothing we should be ashamed of. It’s– it’s where it’s at. I do believe this, I really believe that– the fact that I have such power in terms of numbers with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, et cetera, I think it helped me win all of these races where they’re spending much more money than I spent. And I won. I think that social media has more power than the money they spent, and I think maybe to a certain extent, I proved that.”

Prove it he did.

Trump Vs. Clinton Social Media Facts

According to Facebook:

• 128 million people in the U.S. used their social platform to talk about the election from March 23, 2015, through Nov. 1 this year. These Facebook users either liked, posted, commented, or shared things about the election.

• On Nov. 8 alone, there were 115.3 million people on Facebook worldwide that generated 716.3 million likes, posts, comments and shares related to the election.

• There were 643 million views of election-related videos.

• Over 10 million people in the U.S. shared on Facebook that they’d voted.

In the United States, people tweeted 1 billion times about the 2016 election from August 2015 through Election Day (Nov. 8), according to Twitter. Both candidate’s social media followings continued to grow throughout the election, with Trump consistently outpacing Clinton.

11.6 million Twitter followers (September 2016)
16.2 million followers (November 2016)

10.7 million Facebook likes (September 2016)
15.5 million Facebook likes (November 2016)

Hillary Clinton
8.8 million Twitter followers (September 2016)
11.4 million followers (November 2016)

6 million Facebook likes (September 2016)
9.7 million Facebook likes (November 2016)

Not only did Trump have more followers throughout the campaign, but Trump followers out-tweeted Clinton followers.

When looking at the online and social media coverage of the election, it is clear that Trump had the loudest media megaphone of all candidates, whether users supported him or not, as shown in the graph below from the MIT Media Lab.
Trump Social Media

(Source: MIT Media Lab)

The Social Media & Online Difference

Hillary Clinton had a traditional political ad spend compared to Trump’s digital strategy. For instance, Clinton spent more than $200 million on television ads in the final months of the election while Trump spent half that.

Trump’s team knew that people were getting their news online and not on the television. Trump was already well groomed on social media (especially Twitter) and was already using social media as a primary communication channel to reach his target audience.

There is a direct correlation here to how businesses have been spending their ad dollars and how the Trump campaign leveraged social media to get their word out. The Wall Street Journal published an article back in 2015 talking about how digital and social media spend will surpass TV ad sales.

“Digital media spending has been booming as advertisers increasingly pour ad dollars into social and video formats, as well as search ads, to keep up with changing consumption habits. At the same time, advertisers have been pulling back on their investment in most types of traditional media categories, including television.”

Trump’s team knew that people were consuming their news differently. If shifting dollars from traditional TV advertising to social media was working for the business community, why not for the political sector? Most businesses have some sort of presence on social media today, but most businesses do not have any relationship with paid TV advertising.

A Pew Research Center analysis of three weeks of the candidates’ Facebook reported:

“Clinton’s and Sanders’ Facebook feeds most often linked to their own official campaign websites or social media accounts. Fully 80% of Clinton’s Facebook posts with links went to campaign pages, as did 58% of Sanders’ Facebook posts. These include links to campaign events, videos (both recorded and streaming) and donation pages. Trump’s Facebook posts, on the other hand, more frequently pointed readers to news media. Fully 78% of his posts with links directed followers to articles from large national or international media organizations such as Fox News and the Daily Mail, as well as more niche sites like the conservative magazine The American Spectator. Trump never linked to his campaign site in a Facebook post.”

As digital marketers, this is important because it shows that people are more engaged with social media that is interesting, shareable, and even viral than self-promoting. This also applies to businesses using Facebook for brand awareness and to drive conversions. When businesses add value on Facebook and other platforms, the more likely users will share that content thus raising online awareness. When businesses educate and inform, they are more likely to be deemed as subject matter expert.

Google Search Volume and the Election

If we look at Google Data, the search “Donald Trump” has an average of 9.1 million searches per month vs. “Hillary Clinton” only having 5 million searches per month.

That’s a significant difference.

Trump & Clinton Search Volume

If we look at the month of October 2016 alone, there were 39.6 million searches between all of the variations of Trump and Clinton. In the graph below, we can see that most people are using Google Search with their mobile phones with 64% of the total search volume on Mobile compared to desktop having only 27% and tablets at 8.7%.

Trump Mobile Search

So what does all of this mean for your business?

It means that social media is here to stay and it is how people are connecting with others, making decisions, sharing their opinions, and spending their time. Businesses that are not currently leveraging social media to promote their brand, sell their products, and engage with their consumers are put at a serious disadvantage.

By leveraging user’s search habits, a business owner and/or executive can target specific advertising mediums to promote their product or service. The Trump political social media lesson is not uncommon. His team knew where to reach his target audience and how to craft a message to elicit an action that they want. The same process can be applied for businesses. Once a business understands where their target demographic conducts their research and formulates their opinion they will have a higher probability of converting that user into a potential customer.