Monday, October 19, 2015

Is Sanders a Viable Candidate, or Does He Just Play One Online?

Bernie Sanders - Jonah Engler

For better or worse Twitter has become a force in presidential politics. A recent Twitter spat between Donald Trump. and Jeb Bush received universal media coverage while actual conversations with the candidates were given much less airplay. I’m not here to debates the merits of politics as a popularity contest. That element has always existed in this game. The question, though, is when the experts and social media disagree … who’s got the right information?

For example, take the last Democratic debate. Ask the pundits and Hillary Clinton was the runaway winner. Bernie Sanders did well for those who support him, and Jim Webb should probably be a Republican. That was the tale of the tape coming out of the debate on the national news. Twitter, however, disagreed – vociferously.

Bernie Sanders added more followers on Twitter after the debate, easily beating his four competitors. In fact, judging by new followers, Sanders laid the proverbial smack down, picking up 35,163 new followers while the Other Four only captured 23,219 new followers … combined.

Now, there’s an argument to be made here that … wait, what do you mean ‘stop, it’s just Twitter.’ Look, as much as I would like it to be otherwise, social media wins translate to real wins in the sphere of public relations. So, regardless of how new or “ridiculous” this might feel to you, understand, social media matters.

Sanders vs Clinton - Jonah Engler

Disclaimer over. If you can come that far with me, hang on. There’s more. You may want to argue Clinton was at a disadvantage when measuring “new followers” because she’s been around for a while. Good point. However, Sanders has been a force among his followers for some time now too. The folks who clicked “follow” for him after the debate were “new” to him in every sense of the word. Many of them were likely followers of one of his opponents … probably Hillary, who only grabbed about 13,000 new followers, about one-third of the folks now “feeling the Bern.”

To be fair, it should be noted Twitter followers are not entirely organic indicators. They can be bought … and they can be borrowed. It’s the trends – like “new” followers – you should watch. For example, of Hillary’s take, most of those came after the first hour was over and done. In the debate, she took a bit of a beating in the first 45 minutes, rallying nicely toward the end.

The “when” of a like is an interesting indicator of what a follower appreciates about a person. Remember, at the core, social media is relational. Something the person being followed said or did mattered enough to earn a follow. When you see mass “follows” check out what was happening when that trend spiked. That’s a good indicator of what message connected with the new fans … and, for the rivals … what to watch.

Jonah Engler is an entrepreneur from NYC.

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