How the Election was Won with Less $$ and More Tweets


**Before I even begin: I ask that you read this with an open mind regardless of who you voted for. This is a blog on smart, lean spending and the power of social media, not political preferences.**

It’s been reported that Clinton spent twice as much as Donald Trump on her campaign for the 2016 election, and the most recent numbers prove it:

Capture.PNGAs of October 19, Clinton’s team had raised 1.068 B. Trump had raised $512M. Other sites have these figures at $1.3B and $795M, respectively. 16% of Clinton’s donations came from small money donors contributing $200 or less; Trump received 27% of his funding from small donors.Compared to the election of 2012, Clinton raised 13% less than Obama, and Trump raised 62% less than Obama did in 2012.


From October 1 to 19, Clinton’s campaign had spent more than double than that of Trump’s – 171.6M versus $83.9 million. Of Trump’s total fundraising, $56.1 million was Trump’s own money, which was about $5 million more than Clinton’s three top individual donors combined.

smartselectimage_2016-11-13-17-54-59It’s interesting to note that Trump also spent more money on his “Make America Great Again” hats and other items than he did on polling – $3.2 million versus $1.8 million from June 2015 to September 2016. From October 1 to 19, they both spent about the same amount on polling (her $700k versus his $600k). Their media spend, however, is drastically different. Although both spent around $33.5 million on advertising, the allocations vary. Clinton spent $30.3 million through mid-October on traditional advertising, about 57% more than Trump’s $19.3 million. The other $3.1 million was spent on online advertising, compared to Trump’s $14.2 million.











So why does this all matter? Trump ran a much leaner campaign and spent way less money and managed to win the election. But how? Some, including Trump himself, say Twitter had a lot do with it. It would seem that cash is no longer king, and social media holds more power. Even if you hate Trump, its hard to ignore the fact that the guy is definitely savvy. Trump used Twitter to reach his followers, spread his message, and at time negate news articles he claimed to be false. He also used a very different strategy online than Clinton’s camp. Most of his tweets came directly from a mobile phone and were the candidate’s own first person thoughts and opinions. The majority of Clinton’s tweets were initiated from TweetDeck and contained mostly snippets from her speeches and videos. Taken from an article posted on USA Today, “Offering the personal touch has clearly helped Trump greatly grow his audience. But what works for one candidate may not work for another. ‘Stream of consciousness tweets appeal to a different type of voter, the Trump voter,’ says DeMeers of Audience Bloom. ‘She’s taking a calculated risk to not go there.'”Trump gave his followers a more personal experience with his opinions, while Clinton was more traditional. It felt as though Trump was speaking directly to his followers, whereas Clinton had quotes referenced in the third person, making it more obvious that an aid was posting the content.

In terms of the numbers, Trump had more followers than Hillary by about 3.8 million. I am assuming he had a head start since he joined Twitter 4 years before Hillary. With Twitter, Trump has been able to quickly and effectively get his message out. Trump’s tweets have been re-tweeted a total of 12 million times; Clinton’s – 5.5 million.capture3

Trump also had more growth in followers after he declared his candidacy. Trump’s grew at a higher rate than Clinton’s and at a higher volume. In October of 2015, they had an equal number of followers on Twitter, but Trump began to surpass her and the gap grew larger.


Trump also has received a total of 33 million likes for his tweets, about 3 times as many as Clinton at 12 million. According to, is it unclear if bots were at play to boost Trump’s numbers. In terms of hashtags, Clinton rarely used them (only 14% of her tweets contained hashtags), and the most popular were #DemDebate and #DemTownhall, as well as #GOPDebate. Trump used at least one hashtag in almost every post.

So again, why is this important? Because 3 years ago, an article was published in the Washington Post entitled, “How Twitter Can Predict an Election”. In the article, the author, Fabio Rojas, opined that social media will “undermine the polling industry. For nearly a century, conventional wisdom has argued that we can only truly know what the public thinks about an issue if we survey a random sample of adults. An entire industry is built on this view. Nearly every serious political campaign in the United States spends thousands, even millions, of dollars hiring campaign consultants who conduct these polls and interpret the results.” Clinton spent way more on polling than Trump, who did not spend any money on poll research for the Iowa caucus. He believed it was unnecessary to spend money on something that the networks were doing for him. Or perhaps he has read Rojas’ article from three years prior and developed a different strategy. According to Rojas’ article, research was conducted and concluded that what people say and how people behave on Facebook and Twitter is a good indication of how they will vote. In a published paper, the authors declare that conversations on Twitter can predict the elections. “If people must talk about you, even in negative ways, it is a signal that a candidate is on the verge of victory. The attention given to winners creates a situation in which all publicity is good publicity.” This quote certainly seems right now that the results are in, and yes, it may be confirmation bias, but it sure is interesting. Trump certainly got a lot more publicity for his behavior on Twitter than Clinton did. The article concludes by saying that polling will no longer be the only tool to forecast an election.

After the results of this election and the amount of data that can be analyzed from social media activity, I wouldn’t be surprised is campaigns in 2020 pay more attention to social media analytics when forecasting voter turnout and election results. It’s also an amazing feat to have won an election and spending a fraction of what the other candidates in the past have spent. Social media could make for leaner, more efficient campaigns in the future.













  1. francoismba · ·

    Interesting comparison of the candidates’ Twitter campaigns. I agree that polls are not the most effective tool in predicting who people will vote for. Also, as discussed in class, these polls tend to be extremely biased considering the sample size and distribution. Although social media can also be biased due to user demographics, these users tend to be more honest and upfront about who they are going to vote for. When analyzing support for candidates, do you think Trump’s consistent use of hashtags skewed the data?

  2. I believe Trump was able to reach more people in an authetic manner on Twitter. We discussed in class that when we follow people on different social medias, we want to do so to get a real look into their lives. Trump gave us this with his tweets. Other polticians had staffs and others to make sure everything was correct. I think it is funny to note now, that closers to election, Trump’s twitter was monitored more closely by his team to make sure it wasn’t too outrageous. Good post.

  3. wfbagleyiii · ·

    There are so many takeaways here! I work in communications and the question arises constantly: how can you quantify your success? Well, if you’re Trump, it’s in billions of dollars in earned media! I think you’re right: he is savvy. He could potentially be the most marketing savvy candidate to have run, to date. And standing by the maxim “all press is good press,” worked in his favor, even when much of the coverage in the final weeks of the presidential campaign turned on him. But it will forever amaze me that tweeting at 3 AM would capture an entire news cycle, benefit a campaign, and ultimately win the presidency. There’s much to be learned from this and I am sure pollsters and strategists are already drawing up the playbooks for 2020! I’d be curious to know what your thoughts are for future uses of social media, or other media, in politics after having done such interesting research here? Great post!

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