Have you ever been part of a marketing campaign where a vast amount of time, money, and resources are dedicated to completely obliterate the credibility of your competition? Probably not, unless you are working for one of the major political parties during this year's presidential election. The race is tight, and for good reason; the two candidates are fascinating to watch and we literally have not seen any nominees like them ever before. Hillary Clinton is the first woman presidential candidate from a major party and narrowly avoided an indictment from the FBI. Her opponent, Donald Trump, seems to infuriate a different group of people every time he opens his mouth and has many in the Republican Party turning against him. Despite the controversies that follow them around like a flock of mosquitoes in the Boundary Waters during the summer, both candidates have been able to leverage digital marketing to their advantage. Let's take a look at who's winning so far.
Social Media Dogfight
Social media is coming into its maturity this season after the 2012 election showed how it could truly effect outcomes. Combined, the two candidates have over 40 million followers on the "Big 3" (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram) social media channels. They are both consistent in using their platforms to badmouth each other, which is expected in our modern day elections, but they also have their own unique ways they utilize their messages.
Trump is a big fan of using nicknames for anyone who doesn't agree with him. Scrolling through his Twitter timeline, he has called people “Crazy”, “Dopey”, and “Losers”, all within the last week. Playing off of Hillary's legal troubles, he seemingly never fails to affix “Crooked” in front of her name when he calls her out. These insults catch the readers attention because we frankly haven’t seen anything like it before from someone running for the highest government office.
The general population is used to politicians holding a high standard of political correctness where everything they say has been carefully thought out. The golden haired businessman's social media presence is the opposite of that, and he has captured America's attention with his unwillingness to abide by these rules. From a wider perspective, Trump uses social media to belittle news articles that criticize him, share poll results where he is the forerunner, and alert us of upcoming media appearances.Whether you agree with his approach to gaining attention or not, he excels at it and has the 25 million followers across Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to back him up.
Hillary has a different approach to social media. Unlike Donald’s first-person voice employed across all his social platforms, all tweets from Hillary are signed “-H” and are mixed in with posts from her team. The Democratic campaign's social presence is a lot less "in-your-face" and hopes to be inspiring, using quotes from her mother and supporters along the way. When comparing Hillary to Trump, her team uses side by side comparisons to contrast how different she is in a better, positive way.
Hillary has a combined 17 million followers on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, which is no pushover. But she does lack some of the shock value that makes Trump so engaging; most of her campaign's posts are politically correct and do not attempt to put others to shame.
While sure to incite a lot of anger with his statements, Trump's peacock-esque social media style has been a complete success in gathering attention. From a sheer numbers perspective, he has 8 million more followers than Hillary and engages the crowd every time he wiggles a finger. The primary goal is to get votes in the November election, and having a substantially larger audience to send your message to is a huge advantage.
Websites are often considered to be the home base for any company or campaign. The creator has complete control of everything that is posted there; including the final decision on what content to post and the ability to avoid any disparaging comments that are often found at the top of social media posts. In this 2016 presidential campaign, Donald and Hillary use their websites in extremely different ways.
In one of the more conservative parts of his digital campaign, Donald's website clearly organizes his political positions, ways to get involved, and how to donate to the campaign. The website lacks any content besides that piped in from other sources, like his own social media accounts or favorable news articles. This simplistic approach makes it very easy for me to find what he believes in and does not bombard me with information that is trying to persuade me.
The Democratic campaign uses a logic-based approach to getting voters on their side, while also playing with a click-bait, Buzzfeed-style content strategy. She uses tools like her Loan Savings Calculator to shows the viewers how much they will save on their student loans if she is elected. Her blog combines both logic and ridicule tactics; articles may contain economic data or give you a numbered list of reasons not to vote for Trump. Elsewhere on the website the “Trump Yourself” image generator pairs Trump quotes with cartoonish design and places them on top of your Facebook profile picture. For my Facebook profile picture of my dad and I hiking in the Rocky Mountains, the cutouts of his face seem out of place.
Clinton does a stellar job at building buzz around her website; I found out about Trump Yourself from a news article about it. This makes up for some of the headline-grabbing shenanigans she refuses to take part in by adding a few of her own retorts to Trump's outlandishness.
Experimenting with original content and different ways to generate hype, Hillary’s website antics take the cake in the website digital marketing race. The frequent use of Trump's shock value acts as the attention getter, and the images and easily digestible content turn the tables to show how offensive what he says really is. The Democrats' website efforts are able to combine a mix of hip design with interesting content to draw in voters and educate them on their agenda.
Overall Winner: Tie
Ties are boring, I know. Ties are why soccer will never become popular in the United States and the equivalent to participation trophies. But with this presidential election cycle, both sides are effectively using different mediums within the digital media marketing realm to capture audiences' attention. This election has been, and will continue to be, a neck and neck race to the finish line. Digital marketing will no doubt be a large way for the candidates to communicate with the American people until midnight on November 8th.
As the race really starts to heat up heading into October, I expect both sides to continue with the strategies they are currently using and expand into new areas. Do not be surprised if Hillary gets more aggressive with her social media marketing and if Trump says even more bizarre things. The first debate between the two is tonight, so get the popcorn ready and keep your Twitter feed refreshed for a night that promises to be entertaining.