I don’t suppose this will come as any surprise, but Donald Trump is crushing his rivals in his use of Twitter. Below are the Twitter statistics for each candidate as of early April, 2016.
Actually, these statistics don’t tell the whole story because a certain percentage of Twitter followers are always fake. They are Twitter bots. Some candidates have decidedly more fake followers than others. To find out how many of a candidate’s followers are real, you can use a Twitter app called, Twitter Audit. This is what I found when I ran the candidates through the app on April, 5th.
Percentage of Real Twitter Followers
Bernie Sanders – 89%
John Kasich – 88%
Ted Cruz – 83%
Hillary Clinton – 79%
Donald Trump – 76%
Yes, Donald Trump has the most fake followers, but it still does not diminish his lead in the follower category.
Do candidates use Twitter bots? Probably, even though they don’t publically admit it. Nothing can stop enthusiastic followers from using bots to troll the sites of candidates they dislike or post positive remarks about their candidate on other sites. I’ve run across several instances of real people entering into arguments with bots. You can often tell when the bot continues spouting disconnected responses to the attacker’s remarks. (For more on the use of political bots, see my article, Will Political Bots Decide the Next Election ).
Although some have claimed that this election may be decided on Twitter, you have to keep in mind that it is far from the most popular social media platform, as the following chart shows. (The chart is based on the latest information on social media use.)
You can see that Twitter only accounts for about 5% of total visits to social media sites. However, it is constantly monitored by other, mainstream media sites so it is positioned to have a direct access to them. It is, thus, influential despite its small share. Tweets are also timely. In this age of 24hr news, they give instant updates on a candidate’s feelings on all types of topics. Traditional news outlets feed on tweets to keep their broadcasts fresh. And no one is better for news and better at tweeting than Trump. Rolling Stone‘s Tim Dickinson notes that “Trump can mainline his latest hot take into the mainstream media, basically any time of night or day. At absolutely zero cost.” True, Facebook posts may carry more information, but they tend to lack the spontaneity of Twitter. This is why it’s important for candidates to differentiate between their Twitter and Facebook posts. Unfortunately, few really do.
Trump succeeds where other candidates fail by making unexpected, sometimes outrageous tweets. It’s this surprise factor that builds followers. A New York Time’s analysis of Trump’s rhetorical style found, “constant repetition of divisive phrases, harsh words, and violent imagery that American presidents rarely use.” That may be, but it still attracts interest. As one observer noted, “If you only post about policies, you take the risk of low number of followers, and there’s a chance that these followers will just scroll past your posts. If you attempt to engage with your audience in an inauthentic way, you risk appearing calculated and out-of-touch.”
In other words, Trump engages his Twitter followers in a way that other candidates don’t. The problem with Twitter, however, is that it’s not really as user-friendly as Facebook. If you want to comment on Facebook, you simply click on the ‘Comment’ link and write your comment. Commenting on Twitter is more involved. Yes, you can click on the ‘Reply’ logo, but that doesn’t show you the comments of others. In fact, not all tweets have comments available for viewing, only ones which show the words, “View Summary” or “View Conversation” at the bottom. When you do finally get to see some comments, however, you will find that they are as venomous as any on Facebook.
The statistics shown at the beginning of this post also highlight another stark difference among the candidates. Donald Trump tweets twice as much as his nearest rival, Ted Cruz. Hillary Clinton tweets the least of any candidate. This is important for the simple fact that it makes Trump appear to be actively involved in his campaign. His enthusiasm, as shown in the number of tweets, feeds the enthusiasm of his supporters. True, he often tweets the same ideas over and over e.g. “we will MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!” Notice, in this example, his use of capital letters, a large type face, and the exclamation point. It makes it seem as if he is excited about what he says and fuels his supporters’ enthusiasm.
Although I thought Sanders did a better job on Facebook than Trump, he doesn’t come close to Trump with his use of Twitter. Actually, he is outperformed by Hillary in this regard, despite her lack of tweets. Sanders posts are mostly predictable, although he has recently ramped up his attacks on Clinton and, as a result, his tweets have received more attention from mainstream media. So here is my ranking of the candidates based on their use of Twitter.
- Donald Trump
- Hillary Clinton
- Ted Cruz
- Bernie Sanders
- John Kasich.
In my final post in this series, I’ll look at Instagram, Reddit, and some other sites.