For all the consultants and media experts still trying to make sense of Donald Trump’s victory, the president-elect offered his own insight in his first full interview since last Tuesday’s win: It proves the power of social media over campaign organization and big ad buys, he claimed.
“I think that social media has more power than the money they spent, and I think maybe to a certain extent I proved that,” Trump said in a 60 Minutes interview that aired Sunday. “It’s a modern form of communication. It’s where it’s at.”
Of course this shouldn’t surprise anyone given the example Trump set at the top of his presidential campaign. He spurned the advice of the political consulting class while taking his case directly to voters on his Twitter feed. And while his use of Twitter was undisciplined and continually maddening for his campaign staff, his abrasive social style defined him as a candidate.
“I really believe that the fact that I have such power, in terms of numbers, with Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, et cetera, I think it helped me win all of these races where they’re spending much more money than I spent,” Trump said.
Here are the numbers for what they’re worth: Trump has 15 million followers on Twitter, Hillary Clinton has 11 million. On Facebook, Clinton has more than 9.4 million likes and 26,600 followers. Trump some 14.5 million likes and 884,000 followers. Trump also leads on Instagram where he has 3.9 million followers to 3.6 million for Clinton.
A more salient question, at least from the perspective of those who view social media as predictive, is what the mentions of each candidate looked like and whether sentiment analysis foretold something traditional survey research didn’t. An analysis from the data and analytics firm 4C Insights found that over the election’s final month, it was Trump who had more “support” on Facebook and Twitter.
So what’s the implication for future campaigns? There’s little doubt that other candidates will try to follow the Trump model: focus on free media, shun the political professional class and not spend big dollars on traditional advertising. And while political strategists remain confident it’s a model that simply cannot work for the overwhelming majority of candidates, no one in the campaign industry is exactly in a position to proclaim anything with certainty at the moment.
So in the short term, get ready to see more social media centric campaigns and candidates. And a potential spending shift that could very well benefit digital consultants.
More basic social metrics aside, the advertising power of social is increasing. Targeting on Facebook advanced this cycle. Snapchat rolled out actual targeting options for advertisers. On Twitter, campaigns can power up key moments in the course of race—the Trump campaign did it during the Republican National Convention.
The GOP nominee had some $258 million less to spend on his campaign than Clinton did on hers, according to the latest FEC filings for both campaigns that run through Oct. 19, but Trump did significantly increase his spending on digital ads in the final two months of the race.
Trump didn’t address television advertising, which he did so little of companies like Tribune Media and E.W. Scripps reported significant drops in ad revenue, when talking about his victory Sunday. On the other side of aisle, analysts have been parsing Clinton’s final TV buys for clues as to why her favored campaign ended in failure.
There is plenty to chew on when it comes to the Clinton campaign’s advertising decisions, and some legitimate gripes for folks who think ill-advised spending helped lead to her defeat. One analysis pointed to her campaign (and the Super PACs supporting it) spending more money on TV ads chasing an electoral vote in Nebraska down the stretch than it did in the critical states of Wisconsin and Michigan.
Another favorite Clinton critique: the campaign’s messaging amounted to beating a dead horse by going negative on a candidate most voters knew was flawed.
Now on Sunday, Trump said the number of his social media followers had increased since the election, but maintained that during the campaign it was the difference maker. By courting controversy and using an authentic-souding voice, Trump was often able to deflect coverage of certain stories.
“I’m not saying I love it, but it does get the word out,” Trump said Sunday. “When you give me a bad story, or when you give me an inaccurate story, I have a method of fighting back.”