Planting The Digital Seeds For The 2016 Presidential Campaign

  • by , Op-Ed Contributor, February 24, 2015

With Jeb Bush announcing his intention to run for President of the United States and Hillary Clinton all but confirming she’s pursuing the position herself, we’ve now found ourselves with two likely candidates for the 2016 races. There’s still certainly a long way to go before the Democratic and Republican parties name their presidential nominees, but with the attention Bush and Clinton are already receiving, there’s no question that they’ll play a big part in the excitement around campaign season. 

The public has already begun discussing Bush and Clinton using the most vocal platform there is available: digital media. We tracked both political figures on their Twitter profiles over six months (August 2014 through January 2015) to take a look at how they may be using their online presence to prepare for campaign season. Although we’re well over a year out before the public will be casting votes for president, this stage of campaigning is vital to building public (and donor) trust ahead of time.

Clinton is probably the more well known of the two figures in the eye of the average American, which we saw evidence of when looking through our data in past months, but the circumstances aren’t so clearly cut. From August until November 2014, Clinton was receiving around 76,000 mentions (i.e., the number of times Twitter users mentioned @HillaryClinton in their tweets) of her Twitter profile monthly.

During this time period, Bush was seeing only about 1,900 mentions of his Twitter profile, @JebBush, monthly. However, in the past couple months this gap has closed considerably. In December and January, Clinton received an average of around 57,000 mentions each month, while Bush received close to 40,000 each month. We would assume that Bush’s announcement to explore running for president would bring him an influx of immediate attention, but the attention seems to be lasting beyond one of a simple announcement.

At the same time, Clinton seems to be trailing Bush in amount of content released. While Bush posted 140 tweets during the six-month time period we tracked, Clinton only posted 25. (These numbers do not include retweets made by the profiles.) That said, Clinton succeeded in responding to a higher number and percentage of questions she received on Twitter than did Bush. Over the time period, Clinton responded to 170 in-bound questions, granting her a response rate of 1.1%, as compared to Bush who only responded to 10, or 0.2% of the questions users tweeted at him.

Still, Clinton and Bush are seeing interesting levels of engagement by their followers. Clinton receives a considerably higher number of interactions (the sum of retweets, favorites, and replies by users) per tweet she posts when compared to Bush — 5,533 interactions per tweet on average to the latter’s 256. With that said, Clinton’s engagement rate is lower than that of Bush’s due to her higher number of followers. While Clinton sees around 0.8 daily interactions per 1,000 followers, Bush sees nearly double at 1.4.

When we analyzed the content of the tweets Clinton and Bush posted, we found some telling differences. From January 2014 through January 2015, we looked at the topics each figure tweeted about most frequently. We found that for Clinton, many of her most-used keywords dealt with women, girls, families, parents, and the economy. For Bush, many of his most-used keywords dealt with students, educational reform, and school. While each figure is discussing different political issues, it’s clear that issues affecting the family are central for both Clinton and Bush.

Jeb Bush is trying to follow in his father’s and brother’s footsteps to the White House, and Clinton is trying to atone for her 2008 defeat at the hands of President Barack Obama. They’re both off to a strong start in how they’re engaging with the public. As the campaigns continue to build, we’ll be taking note of how both figures use social media to their advantage.

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