Being Social Helped Win The Election: Communications Lessons for Businesses

Tom Mitchell
November 15, 2016

Tom Mitchell

Social media has never been more anti-social. At least that’s the impression coming out of the recent presidential election. In post analysis, that may be farther from the truth as so many Americans were directly engaged in conversations and (sometimes) healthy debate over the social airwaves.

It’s true that this year’s election was one of the dirtiest and most hard-hitting presidential campaigns ever. Social media played a prominent role for each candidate, the media and voters. Most of us have seen and been amazed at just how far the media outlets and candidates turned the social media dials and pulled the messaging levers, but what is more eye opening is the personal posts and dialogs between the voters -- friends and family -- on Facebook and Twitter.

According to Pew Research, 68% of all U.S. adults are Facebook users, 25% use LinkedIn and 21% use Twitter. This means that U.S. adults were sharing their views on the election minute by minute and engaging with their followers and connections on opinions, dialog and discourse. Further research from Pew shows that heated political discussions were burning up social media accounts so much so that people were actually getting burned out from the virtual conversations.

In fact, more than 1/3 of social media users were overwhelmed and inundated with political conversations vial social outlets. Almost 60% said that they were frustrated and stressed by the political conversations. Interestingly, the same research showed that when someone’s friends or relatives posted something political they disagreed with, 83% of the posts were simply ignored. However, many people do see value in using social media as an outlet for discussing politics with about 20% of social media users sharing their take on candidates and topics online.

In the end, this election season was an overwhelming victory for social media:

  • The second presidential debate in early October generated more than 92 million "interactions" alone by almost 20 million users
  • More than 75 million tweets were recorded by Twitter by 3 a.m. the day after the election, eclipsing the 31 million tweets recorded in the 2012 election
  • More than 115 million people discussed the election on Facebook, generating more than 716 million likes, posts, comments and shares related to the election
  • According to Facebook, 8.8 billion posts, likes and comments were posted between March 23, 2015, and November 1, 2016

As a presidential candidate and now president elect, Donald Trump has constantly spoken on the benefits of social media and maybe even exceeded its limits on some occasions. In the exclusive 60 Minutes interview with President-elect Trump on Sunday, November 13, he spoke of the power of social media as a communications tool to effectively restate facts and inaccuracies, react to negative remarks and push policy – all in real time.

Social media was truly an advocacy platform for everyone involved in the election, and post-election there’s no sign of it slowing down. Whether B2B or B2C, businesses can use the lessons learned in driving conversation from social media. Even further, social media can be explored as a way to address societal causes and opening dialog (hopefully meaningful) between dissenting groups. It’s exciting to think where we might be with the next presidential election – where real-time conversation might actually influence the outcome by aligning it with ethical and relevant dialog with data that can be checked and shared immediately. 

Tom Mitchell

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