The Social Media Showdown Between Donald Trump And Hillary Clinton

  • by , Op-Ed Contributor, August 25, 2015

The next U.S. presidential election may be over a year away, but the race to select party candidates is on. On the left, Hillary Clinton seems to be the most-likely contender for the Democratic party’s nomination as of yet. On the right, the story is a bit more complicated. Donald Trump has said that he may end up running as an independent, but he certainly is making the most noise of any conservatives running.

When we compare these two based on their social media strategy, we get a very telling reflection of how each is executing their political campaigns. We took a look at Clinton and Trump on Facebook and Twitter over the past four months (April 19 - Aug. 19, 2015) to see how each was performing in the race for digital engagement. The results show that Trump is, indeed, making a huge splash on social — but in a much different way than Clinton.

Audience Growth

It’s clear that, whether for positive or negative reasons, eyes are on Trump. During the period we tracked, Trump doubled his Fan count on Facebook; he adopted a whopping 1.57 million Fans to bring his total audience to 3.2 million. That’s a huge number of people following his messages — especially considering that Trump adopted more Fans during this time than Clinton has in total. Clinton brought on just over 455,000 Fans to bring her count to 1.19 million.

Twitter’s a different story. Clinton did in fact bring in fewer Followers on Twitter during the period — around 682,000 compared to Trump’s nearly 940,000 — but Clinton still has a larger total count of Followers.

But audience size certainly isn’t everything, and it can’t be measured in isolation; it’s important to take a look at other factors, too. Social followership doesn't always translate to actual support of a candidate or their political platform. It can also be a sign of noise around a candidate. For example, as evidenced by negative user comments on politicians’ posts, it’s clear there are a number of people keeping tabs on certain figures while not necessarily supporting them.

The Content That Clicks

Each candidate’s top-performing content tells us a bit about what their audiences find noteworthy. Trump’s top post on Facebook (measured by number of Likes, Comments, and Shares) during the time period referred to his view that the U.S. healthcare system favored illegal immigrants. Trump has received a lot of media attention for his comments on immigrants, and this post with its over 1 million total interactions shows that the public has a special interest in this topic. It’s no surprise, then, to see that Clinton’s top Facebook post was also on the topic; in fact, it was a direct dispute to Trump’s comments. Clinton’s top post, though, received only around 15% of the amount of engagement that Trump’s did.

On Twitter, we see Hillary’s top tweet receiving higher engagement than Trump’s — but this time their top posts are about very different topics. Trump’s top tweet received around 34,000 total interactions (Retweets, Favorites, and Replies) and was about his view that being political correct is inefficient. Clinton’s top tweet, however, was about One Direction’s new charity initiative about highlighting causes that are important to people around the world. It received over 143,000 interactions. 


Across platforms, Trump is indeed gathering a ton of attention and generating high engagement. On Facebook, he received over 13.2 million interactions on his Page Posts during the time period measured. Compare this to Clinton’s 5.6 million. On Twitter, Trump received 3 million interactions on his tweets, compared to Clinton’s 2 million.

It’s clear Clinton and Trump have different strategies as to how they’re running their campaigns. Digital is becoming an increasing part of their strategies, and the American public is turning to social platforms to hear the candidates’ thoughts and voice feedback. 

As divisive as he may be, Trump is being talked about and his voice is getting heard. Whether that’s a fruitful strategy is, of course, up for debate. But one thing’s for sure: the battle on social media is far from over, and we’ll continue to see candidates looking for ways to generate attention.

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