The Social Side of Election 2016

The initial shock wave has passed, but pundits all over the airwaves are still scrambling to find missed clues pointing to the surprising Trump victory. One fact stands out. Even though Trump was outspent across the board by the Clinton campaign, when it comes to social media, he walked away with a landslide victory. Does this mean that social media decided the 2016 election? Probably not, but it certainly played a role.

Here’s what we know. Trump outpaced Clinton by about 4.5 million followers on Facebook, and by 3.2 million followers on Twitter. These numbers may be an issue of popularity, but they are also a result of effort. For every Clinton tweet, there were about four from the Trump campaign. These numbers are hugely important but still not the whole story. To unravel that mystery, we have to talk about Kanye West. Feel free to read that again.

What Kanye and Trump both know is that social media LOVES the cascading effect of wildly inappropriate comments as they play out over the internets. They ride them like surfers ride ocean waves. And like Kanye, Trump has profound gravity on social media. Comments that would bury previous campaigns became daily occurrences. Before they realized what was happening, voters had a daily Trump addiction.

How all this plays out in real life is anyone’s guess, but there is one clear insight from this election. Personality matters to voters. At least in this election, they are willing to forgive a lot in exchange for what they consider honesty. Is this a new age of more candid candidacies? Who knows. Whether Trump is the first data point in a new trend or a curious political anomaly is still anyone’s guess.

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