Could Cruz Tweet to Victory? - Tracking the 2016 Presidential Candidates Online

Could Cruz Tweet to Victory? - Tracking the 2016 Presidential Candidates Online

In 1789 George Washington became the first of many Presidents of the newly formed United States. To this day, he remains a symbol of American ideals and values and every year, US Presidents as a whole are celebrated on President’s Day, known in some quarters as Washington’s birthday.

President’s day is usually a day to remember US Presidents past and present but here at Talkwalker we decided to take a look at something a little different. With the 2016 election edging closer and potential candidates crawling out of the wood work, we decided to track some of the more high profile 2016 candidates using social listening (based on this New York Times article). We looked at data over the last 30 days to see who is getting the most attention at present and who may need to raise their profile.

The Big Picture – Biden & Clinton lead the way for online mentions but Republicans hot on their tail

total mentions

Top spot in terms of total online mentions goes to Joe Biden, no surprise given his position as Vice President. Around a fifth of Biden’s mentions (about 70,000 mentions) came on January 21st when he told Matt Lauer of NBC’s Today program that he thinks he “could do a good job” if he became President, highlighting the interest the 2016 election is already generating. Hot on his heels is fellow Democrat Hillary Clinton with just under 350,000 mentions with around 25,000 of those mentions coming on Feb 3rd when Clinton posted this tweet relating to her campaign to reduce the cost of vaccines for children:

clinton tweet

The top performing Republican is Wisconsin governor Scott Walker with just under 300,000 mentions, who reportedly became the first candidate to open an office in the early nominating state of Iowa. For better or for worse, Walker recently experienced a big surge mentions due to a report published in the Washington Post about why Walker dropped out of college in his senior year. The story was carried on multiple news channels however, on Twitter the most shared tweets were those that came out in support of the Governor: walker support

Big Tweeters – Ted Cruz the big winner though Sanders most active

All the potential candidates are active on social media with most owning personal Twitter and Facebook accounts and several having more than one. We’ll focus on Twitter in the interest of space and because the large number of mentions makes it a bit more interesting.

One thing that is immediately clear is that the Republican candidates are far more proactive on Twitter than their Democrat peers:

owner activity

Here owner activity refers to the combined number of tweets posted by each account plus the posts they have retweeted and replied to. Only one Democrat candidate is in the top 10 - Joe Biden - and given that he is Vice President and has two accounts, his activity actually seems slightly low. The most active candidate is the independent Senator Bernie Sanders with the rest of the list made up of Republicans. In fact, of the 16 candidates monitored, the two least proactive were Martin O’Malley and Hillary Clinton, both Democrats.

Democrats vs Republicans: Who is rousing the online public?

audience activity

In the table above, audience activity refers to the number of retweets, replies, mentions and potential views (impressions) that Twitter accounts have received from their audience, so not just from their followers but anybody on Twitter that has interacted with a certain account. Looking at the table above it's easy to see that the picture is quite different from that of the previous owner activity chart. For example, although Senator Sanders had the highest level of owner activity (Sen. Sanders own tweets, retweets and replies) his tweets didn't generate as much of a response as others who were less active. By contrast, despite having the lowest number of tweets of any candidate, Hillary Clinton comes second in overall audience activity suggesting that although Clinton doesn't tweet often, her posts have a big impact. This can probably be explained at least partially by the fact that Clinton has 2.75 million followers, more than double the followers of her closest competitor Joe Biden with 1.17 million and over three times more than the most followed Republican candidate Ted Cruz with 740369 followers.

Speaking of Cruz, in terms of audience activity he is a standout performer. Across every metric – mentions, replies, retweets and impressions Cruz come out tops. It’s so impressive in fact that it probably deserves a closer look.

Ted Cruz – Twitter Champion

Aside from being a fairly prolific tweeter and using a relatively high proportion of images, one tactic that Cruz appears to employ effectively is directly asking his audience for retweets.

cruzx tweet 1 2

For his most shared tweet of the 30 day period, Cruz combined a call for a retweet with a custom-made graphic criticizing President Obama on his position towards Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu:

cruz tweet 3

Outside of these more technical aspects of using social media, Cruz’s tweets generally seem very focused on specific national campaigns and criticism of President Obama. It may be that the more national focus of his tweets (compared to some of his Republican counterparts) is helping him reach a wider audience.

So who’s doing well and who could do better?

Overall the top Republican candidates Ted Cruz and Rand Paul appear to be doing a good job of getting their name out online. Although Rand Paul doesn’t dominate any particular category he is a steady performer in terms of total online mentions (5th), proactivity on Twitter (3rd) and engaging his Twitter audience (3rd). Vice President Biden and Hillary Clinton also perform well, but this is to be expected given a) Biden's public exposure as Vice President and b) Clinton’s long history of public exposure as a First Lady, then a Presidential candidate in 2012 and a Secretary of State. By comparison, none of the Republican candidates have held important posts in national government but their pro-activity and ability to engage their audience is helping them to compete with the two high profile Democrat candidates.

So will one of these candidates one day be celebrated on President’s Day? It is of course much too early to tell but with the public increasingly taking to social media to engage with politicians, having a strong online presence could be a deciding factor come 2016.

Photo Credit: National Park Service