Presidential candidates are becoming more social media savvy

By: Katie Gerweck

The United States presidential election is less than a year away, and candidates are campaigning hard. While in the past this may have involved more traditional materials like buttons and brochures, candidates are now adding social media to their campaigns, and for good reason. According to the Pew Research Center, “16% of registered voters follow candidates for office, political parties, or elected officials on a social networking site” (source). With so many people, especially Millennials, including social media into the political process, it’s not surprising that candidates are turning to platforms like Facebook and Twitter to engage voters. According to the Los Angeles Times, “[t]he platforms are almost ubiquitous among millennials, who pundits believe could be key to winning the election” (source).

So what platforms are candidates using, and how are they using them?

Twitter and Facebook – the two most popular social media websites, according to ebizmba.com – seem to be the most utilized (source). Candidates like Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, Ben Carson, and Marco Rubio all have a Facebook page and Twitter account. Of these candidates, Trump seems to be the most candid user of social media, especially on Twitter; according to the Washington Post, “[h]e’s embraced the medium, perhaps predictably, using it in the way he uses his campaign rallies: As a way to say whatever is on his mind to a large number of people” (source). The Washington Post also noted that Trump is the candidate that has sworn the most on Twitter (source). It appears to be working, as Trump currently has the most Twitter followers of the aforementioned candidates, with 5.67 million (source).

Meanwhile, The New York Times declared Bernie Sanders “Facebook royalty,” with an “idiosyncratic method” of “posting images that share a quotation, which he has either written himself or dug up from a historical figure and then superimposed onto a photograph” (source). Although these posts “rarely uses buzzy introductory text,” they are still widely “liked” and “shared” in comparison to other candidates’ posts, and Sander’s popularity on the platform has grown (source).

Other social media sites are being used, too. Jeb Bush announced his bid for the presidential election on Snapchat (one of the first, along with Hillary Clinton) and uses Instagram (source). Sanders interacts with Reddit users (source). And Rand Paul and Martin O’Malley are using Meerkat, just to name a few (source).

With candidates becoming increasingly social media savvy, it will be interesting to see how they utilize these platforms as it gets closer to the election!

Katie Gerweck is a senior majoring in public relations with a minor in journalism. She is the editor-in-chief for EMU PRSSA. She was the copy chief for the Eastern Echo during the summer of 2015.

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