In presidential campaign, Twitter was a powerful political tool

Twitter reports 1 billion election-related tweets since August 2015

The contentious presidential election lit up Twitter with users posting more than 1 billion tweets about the election since the Republican debates began in August 2015.

“This has been called the Twitter Election, with every step of the campaign playing out in Tweets from voters, candidates, and journalists,” wrote Bridget Coyne, Twitter's senior manager of government and politics, in a blog post.

That 1 billion tweets figure, however, was reported Monday night – the eve of the actual election.

That means if the campaigns, as well as everyday American users, take to Twitter to fret, argue and celebrate the results of today’s election, that number could jump considerably.

Twitter reported at 11 a.m. today, at its peak, election-related tweets were coming in at 27,000 per minute.

clinton tweet delete Twitter

This was the most retweeted tweet of the whole election cycle, according to Twitter.

At one point this morning, all but one U.S. Twitter Trend was about voting. At 1 p.m. ET, #pantsuit, #ElectionDay and #dedicatethevote were trending.

The presidential election has fueled Twitter over the past 18 months with political memes, live streamed debates, and millions of tweets and retweets praising and griping about the candidates and the issues.

Twitter said there were some spikes in tweets during the primaries, especially Super Tuesday on March 1, as well as during the Republican and Democratic national conventions in July.

However, the biggest spikes came during the presidential debates, when the Clinton and Trump campaigns worked to get out their messages and citizens tweeted their support of their favorite candidate or their derision of the one they opposed.

trump tweet 700 Twitter

This was one of Donald Trump's most retweeted tweets.

The first of the three presidential debates was hailed as the most-tweeted debate in Twitter's history, according to the social media site, although the company did not release specific numbers about the number of tweets posted.

Republican nominee Donald Trump had the most tweeted moments during that first debate. The site lit up when Trump said he had a good temperament, when he commented on stop-and-frisk, and when the candidates talked about their plans for defeating ISIS.

During the course of the campaign however, Trump’s most retweeted comments didn’t come during the debates.

On July 20, he tweeted one of his most retweeted comments, writing, “The media is spending more time doing a forensic analysis of Melania's speech than the FBI spent on Hillary's emails.” Trump was referring to reports that his wife's speech at the Republican National Convention plagiarized a speech given by first lady Michelle Obama.

Another of Trump’s most retweeted tweets was a comment he made about climate change, saying, “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.”

As for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, two of her most popular tweets were about Trump.

One came on June 9, when she tweeted, “Delete your account,” a slam to her opponent. Twitter said it was the most retweeted tweet of the entire election.

Another came on Sept. 26, when Clinton tweeted, “ "I never said that." —Donald Trump, who said that. #debatenight.”

“The election is dominating many people's thoughts and a lot of discussions so I’m not surprised by the Twitter use,” said Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research. “People are also using Facebook, but Twitter is better for rapid responses. People tweet about what is happening now, and what is on their minds. Also, Twitter has become a major communications channel for the campaigns.”

While Gottheil said both campaigns have used Twitter well to get out there messages, Trump largely built his persona on it.

“His tweets were a direct line between him and his core supporters, and his core supporters retweeted, replied, and commented, building the movement,” he said. “I think Twitter was what brought Trump supporters together, gave them permission to express things they might not otherwise share in public, and built a movement out of millions of disparate people.”

Trump also used Twitter to go after his opponents and critics, garnering negative attention for some of his more vitriolic tweets.

“I think [Trump's] use of Twitter ultimately hurt him,” said Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with ZK Research. “He’s viewed by some as a loose cannon and too unstable to be president. He took to Twitter with some crazy tweets, proving the point. Republicans, by definition, are conservative, and his use of Twitter was most certainly not.”

But Gottheil said Trump’s use of Twitter helped galvanize his political image as a fighter.

Twitter was Trump’s most powerful tool, he added.

“Even if it sometimes backfired on him, it also kept motivating the base and sometimes amplified his message,” Gottheil said. “He's a great Twitter stylist.”

As for the most tweeted issues, foreign affairs has the most, garnering 50 million tweets; there were 29 million tweets on terorrism, 25 million on the U.S. economy, 19 million on gun issues and 18 million on cybersecurity.

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Sharon Gaudin

Computerworld (US)
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