Why Did Trump Win? It Was the Twitter, Stupid

Tuesday night’s election results have astonished the country and left citizens, journalists and pollsters alike uttering a collective WTF? Even President-Elect Donald Trump and his supporters seemed surprised at the night’s huge upset.

For marketers, there’s another angle to this mystery.

Does this prove that data-based targeting is overrated? How about TV advertising? Trump famously snubbed both in his quest for the White House and was proved right in doing so. What lessons can marketers take away from this?

Treat Twitter and Social as THE Channel, Not Just a Channel

From mid-September through Election Day, Hillary spent $145 million in television ads, while Trump spent $4 million. Similarly, Clinton’s campaign pushed out thousands in door-to-door canvassing in the last week, while the media called Trump out for seemingly ignoring a get-out-the-vote effort.

Instead of focusing on television ads, ground-game strategy and other forms of traditional political advertising, Trump turned to social. He treated social as the new door-to-door ground game.

Authenticity Matters

One of the main reasons people cite when explaining their support for Trump is his lack of fear: He says what he thinks. Conversely, one of the main criticisms Hillary faced was that she consistently comes off as too political or canned.

This “authentic or not” debate translated to social.

From the 3:30 am tweetstorm to his infamous Mexican taco bowl tweet, nobody ever had doubts that Trump’s messages were coming directly from him. Regardless of whether people loved or hated those messages, they responded to them -- and him -- because they knew he was the person behind those tweets.

Contrast that with Hillary’s Twitter approach. The Clinton campaign has been clear that the majority of her tweets don’t actually come directly from her, and that the ones that do are marked with “-H.” Most of her posts were heavily branded with graphics and campaign slogans and hashtags like #ImWithHer.

Respect the Channel

From the beginning, Trump was lambasted in the media and the debates for his online posts, which many said were ridiculous or insensitive. But the overwhelming response wasn’t serious -- it was incredulousness. Trump -- and his messages -- became a joke. In some cases, they became memes.

Whether people responded to Trump’s posts in solidarity or in disbelief, they responded.  While the media largely treated these posts as signs that Trump couldn’t be taken seriously, many people heard his remarks and silently agreed.

Understand the power of the influencer network: VIP influencers vs. citizen influencers

As impressive and headline-grabbing as it is that all-star celebrities like Beyoncé, Jay Z and Katy Perry publicly supported Hillary, celebrity influence doesn’t automatically translate into votes. A celebrity sponsorship for a politician isn’t all that different from a paid celebrity sponsorship for a brand. Just because people listen to Jay Z’s music doesn’t mean they’re going to listen to -- let alone, act on -- his political views.

People are more influenced by citizen influencers. It’s not about rally concerts and flashy videos to build up hype; it’s about connecting with people one-on-one.

The Silent Majority - Those Who Listened But Didn’t Post

The disconnect between poll’s predictions and Tuesday night’s actual results have left pollsters wracking their brains over where they went wrong. For the answer, we have to look beyond that and look at who’s listening.

Take the difference in Trump and Hillary’s Twitter followings as of Nov. 9:


13.8 million followers

34,000 tweets


10.6 million followers

9,837 tweets

That’s a huge disparity in overall reach. Coupled with Trump’s higher engagement rates, it indicates that just because people didn’t outright say they were planning to vote Trump, they were listening and responding to him — just more privately.

In fact, the number of social posts mentioning Trump with positive sentiment rose from 43% the week of October 8-14 to 51% during November 5-9. Similarly, the number of negative posts mentioning Trump decreased from 45% to 38% in that time.

Those tweets were the best predictor of the way the election went.



1 comment about "Why Did Trump Win? It Was the Twitter, Stupid".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. John Grono from GAP Research, November 11, 2016 at 2:51 a.m.

    So the medium trumped the message.   Big call.

Next story loading loading..