Super Tuesday 2016:The Complete Social Media Guide

Welcome to Super Tuesday! If you in any way are interested in the U.S. presidential race you might as well just take today off and stay glued to news media and social media. If you live in Europe — well, better take tomorrow off from work, because it’s going to be a long night. 😉

What Is Super Tuesday

Super Tuesday refers to a series of primaries all squeezed into one day: March 1, 2016. This year, 14 U.S. states and territories are up for grabs in the race for the Democratic and the Republican nominations for the presidential race.

The primaries and caucuses before Super Tuesday are held one by one, and candidates get to personally shake a lot of voters’ hands. Small and underfunded candidates often perform much better than they would otherwise.

For many campaigns this is the sink-or-swim moment in the race, showing how well candidates can do on a national scale. With voting held in multiple locations at the same time, candidates can’t target each state and its issues separately. Media appearances become more important and topics that are relevant nationally begin to dominate the race.

Follow Super Tuesday On Social Media

Once, the idea of a U.S. president using social media to interact with the masses may have seemed ludicrous. But then Barack Obama became the first “president of the social media age”, and that has changed the game for those running for president as well. Here’s how the current candidates for the job hold up on social media.

Of course, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Ben Carson are on social media (some are even on Pinterest), but they’re playing only minor roles when it comes to creating real social media buzz. The social media race seems to be mostly between Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump.

The “Who Has The Most Followers” Game

Surprisingly, but inarguably, Donald Trump is on top of his social media game. The man who made Trump social media savvy is 29-year-old Justin McConney, who already began working on getting Trump followers five years ago. The effort has paid off.

In the course of the GOP debate last week Trump was mentioned in 4.4 million more tweets than any other candidate. He has almost 6.5 million Twitter followers, 1 million followers on Instagram, and about 6 million likes on Facebook.

This is, by the way, as good a time as any to check how many of your Facebook friends have liked his page and to wonder whether they’re doing it ironically. You can also use friendswholiketrump.com.

The Trump campaign’s social media strategy revolves around short video clips, which mostly consist of Donald Trump “yelling into a camera, flecks of spittle hitting the lens” as well as cheaply produced propaganda videos — something as simple and easily done as overlaying clips of Hillary Clinton laughing with clips of a wreckage.

These videos can be produced at extremely low cost and, thanks to them getting picked up by mainstream media, they often end up as free TV advertising for the Trump campaign. Trump is literally saving money here, having spent a lot less on TV ads than other candidates have. With his love for video clips, it makes sense that Trump has embraced Periscope and YouTube as well.

On the other hand, Trump is also the candidate most often and most easily made fun of in memes and other internet ruckus, from Darth Trump to TrumpDonald.org.

There will be hell toupee in 2016! #TrumpForPrez

A photo posted by Lauren Sivan (@idiotsivan) on

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are the only ones even coming close to Trump’s follower numbers. Clinton has 5.5 million followers on Twitter and 2.5 million likes on Facebook. Sanders, meanwhile, has 1.5 million on Twitter, and around 3 million on Facebook.

The “Who Wins With Hashtags” Game

Of course, there are plenty of generic hashtags for the elections floating around: #election2016, #[candidate’s name]forpresident, #[candidate’s name]2016 etc. But some campaigns have put an extra effort into creating unique hashtags.

While Bernie Sanders might be weaker in social media follower counts than both Trump and Clinton, he is currently winning the hashtag game. Trump’s #MakeAmericaGreatAgain and Clinton’s #ImWithHer might both be trending, but neither of them can hold a candle to Sanders’ hashtag #FeelTheBern.

Here are some screenshots I took on RiteTag on Sunday:

Hashtag Analytics for #makeamericagreatagain Feb 28
RiteTag statistics for Donald Trump’s hashtag #makeamericagreatagain.
Hashtag Analytics for #imwithher Feb 28
RiteTag statistics for Hillary Clinton’s hashtag #imwithher.
Hashtag Analytics for #feelthebern Feb 28
RiteTag statistics for Bernie Sanders’ hashtag #feelthebern.

As you can see, #FeelTheBern wildly outperforms the other two hashtags. Likely, this is because it’s a well conceived hashtag. It’s unique, and imaginative word play, and prominently features the name of the candidate as well.

I figured the statistics would be subject to change so I checked back in with RiteTag on Monday. The exposure had dropped for both #ImWithHer and #MakeAmericaGreatAgain:

Hashtag Analytics for #imwithher Feb 29
Analytics for #ImWithHer from Monday: The exposure is down from almost 1.5m on Sunday.
Hashtag Analytics for #makeamericagreatagain Feb 29
The exposure for #MakeAmericaGreatAgain was also down on Monday, from around 940k on Sunday.

I figured it might have something to do with Sunday being a stronger day, but then I checked the stats for #FeelTheBern:

Hashtag Analytics for #feelthebern Feb 29

I was dumbfounded to find that the hashtag’s exposure had grown from 3 million to more than 9 million while the unique tweets had pretty much stayed at the same level. I first checked whether the official Bernie Sanders Twitter account had recently tweeted using the hashtag, but that wasn’t the case.

So I took to Twitter to ask RiteTag what “hashtag exposure” refers to exactly. RiteTag founder Saul Fleischman gave me some insight into how it works:

According to this, the jump in exposure for #FeelTheBern is based on retweets, likes and other curation. We can only assume, of course, but the development can likely be traced back to the enormous grassroots and online base Sanders has been able to draw in his bid for the nomination.

There’s An App For That!

Sanders grassroots base also does its job when it comes to apps. Almost all candidates still in the race at this point have a dedicated mobile app. Most of them are pretty straight-forward and deliver updates from the campaign trail. Well, except that no one is sure what Ben Carson’s app does. And then there’s Ted Cruz “Cruz Crew App”, which is mining users’ phones for data.

But Sanders is the candidate most prolific in the app game. His supporters have created multiple apps aimed at connecting voters with the senator, as well as creating infrastructure that was previously missing. The idea behind most of the apps is connecting grassroots activists with each other and to the campaign office.

One of those many apps, created by volunteers, is “Field the Bern” — a play on the Sanders rallying cry “Feel the Bern”. The app allows canvassers who aren’t directly affiliated with the campaign to collect voter data when going door-to-door to mobilise voters. The campaign is apparently working on a way to incorporate the information collected with the open-source app into their own database.

The Sanders campaign has recently endorsed the app “Rally”, an app that connects supporters virtually and lets them coordinate their efforts.

Screenshots from the Rally, the canvassing app the Bernie Sanders campaign has endorsed.
Screenshots from Rally, the canvassing app endorsed by the Bernie Sanders campaign. The app lets volunteers chat and coordinate in public and private messages and groups.

Who’s App-Less?

When googling for a Donald Trump mobile app, you will mostly find Anti-Trump apps, either to keep Trump out of your online field of vision or games that make fun of him. No official mobile app, it seems.

Surprisingly, the only other candidate without a dedicated mobile app is Hillary Clinton. Back in August, the campaign was looking to hire app developers, but, alas, no Clinton app yet. I wonder if they haven’t found any hopeful candidates or whether the campaign is so certain Hillary will win the nomination that they’re waiting to release the app only after the primaries are done.

Third-Party Apps To Stay Up-to-Date

2016 Election Central is a non-partisan website, created by the person behind YouDecide2008 and YouDecidePolitics. It aims to cover the whole election cycle with a focus on the debates and primaries, posting frequent updates on the website. There’s also an Election Central app, the self-acclaimed first 2016 election app dedicated to debates and primaries and a source for primary and debate schedules.

Newsfusion has created an app for the election, using its curation technology to aggregate news post.

Not an app but, If you’re looking for the historically most accurate polls, head to Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight.

And, if you’ve had just about enough of all of this, there’s always the Washington Post’s app Floppy Candidate, a tongue-in-cheek political parody on the popular 2013 game Flappy Bird.

Are you going to follow Super Tuesday on social media or will you just be playing Floppy Candidate? 😉 Let us know in the comments!