A Flash of Clinton: #Facestumping -Presidential Campaigning on Facebook (Part 3)


Note: This blog post is part of a series entitled Facestumping – Presidential Campaigning on Facebook.  The other posts in this series are Thanks Be From Trump? Facestumping – Presidential Campaigning on Facebook (Part 1)“and “We, The Bernie Revolutionaries: Facestumping – Presidential Campaigning on Facebook (Part 2) Over the next few days we will be sharing additional blog posts featuring an analysis of Facebook posts from other leading US presidential candidates including Ted Cruz. 

A Flash of Clinton

Nothing says establishment like a perfectly polished Facebook Page. And none of the Pages analysed in this research are quite so perfectly curated as that of Hillary Clinton. With 438 posts made between January 21 and February 22, 2016, Clinton was by far the most prolific Facebook user among the candidates studied – that works out to an average of 13 posts every day. That her Facebook Page is professionally managed should come as no surprise, Clinton has raised and spent more money than any one else in the running. The pizazz, though, isn’t likely to win over anyone leaning towards Sanders or other so-called anti-establishment candidates. (See Fig. 1)

Clinton Fig. 1
Clinton Fig. 1 Number of Facebook Posts

Clinton’s campaign is slick. They know just when to tag another Page – when it’s a positive and polite association. Questions are used to engage the audience. And the audience is ever present – as most social media marketers will tell you it should be – addressed directly in the second person singular “you”. Clinton uses clear calls to action, with time sensitive hooks to motivate. Redundant links in posts re all neat and tidy with a custom Hillary Rodham Clinton URL shrinker (as shown in the example below).

Clinton Ex. 1
Clinton Ex. 1

All the fancy Page hacks have been executed. From Clinton’s inspirational profile photo that looks as if she’s voicing the posts, to the featured video of Hill and Bill playing Grandparents – this Page checks all the boxes. A custom cover image reinforces Clinton’s campaign slogan, “Hillary for America!” Every year since Clinton’s birth has a milestone, complete with pictures filling the Timeline feature. Even the featured Photos section displays a beautiful collage of custom images complete with messages and the Likes highlight how many other special Pages the campaign supports. Not bad for a relative latecomer to the Facebook block – despite the detailed Timeline, Clinton’s first post appears to be in only 2015.

The Clinton Facebook campaign is clearly a social media machine. And that might be its limitation.

Clinton Ex. 2
Clinton Ex. 2

As Clinton isn’t likely doing the posting, the Page features a much higher rate of the third person singular voice than any of the other candidates. It’s all Hillary this, and Hillary that – with an intermittent splash of celebrity name-dropping. The use of the third person singular voice actually separates Clinton from her following, as it sets them apart from one another. It’s quite a distanced way of speaking. And in looking at the most frequently posted words alone, Clinton appears to be as self-obsessed as Ted Cruz and his “vanity” hashtags. This perspective is only reinforced with the campaign’s attempt to use Clinton-specific hashtags, such as #ImWithHer.

Clinton Fig. 2 Cinton's Most Frequently Used Words
Clinton Fig. 2 Cinton’s Most Frequently Used Words

The volume of posts and attention to detail suggest an advanced social media marketing team is behind the Clinton Page. The use of third person singular pronouns, to talk about Hillary, only reinforces this strong corporate image of an establishment candidate, potentially distancing her from her audience. It might also explain that while Clinton added 3 times as many posts as Sanders in the month analysed, why the two candidates are enjoying similar rates of being talked about on Facebook. In looking at Facebook content, Clinton’s campaign is about Hillary – for her to lure anyone away from Sanders, it must become more about the issues, and less about #her.

Clinton Fig. 3 People Talking About Facebook Page
Clinton Fig. 3 People Talking About Facebook Page

About the Project: This project is a collaboration between Alicia Wanless (@lageneralista– Director of Communications,SecDev Foundation, Anatoliy Gruzd (@gruzd) – Canada Research Chair in Social Media Data Stewardship, Philip Mai(@phmai) – Research & Communications Manager, and Marc Esteve (@netmev) Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Ryerson Social Media Lab

Facebook and other social media sites are transforming our politics. Today, when politicians such as Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump or Jeb Bush want to attract voters’ attention, they turn to social media. Within seconds, a well-timed tweet or Facebook post can be delivered directly into the hands of supporters and the public at large.  For example, when Jeb Bush announced his intention to run for the US presidency, he used Facebook to make the announcement.

As more candidates and parties flock to social media, it is now easier to analyse a candidate’s campaign, both in terms of messaging and engagement, to determine how effective they are at using social media platform such as Facebook and to connect to their supporters. Knowing how, when, and what a candidate posts on social media says a lot about how they position themselves on the political stage, their campaign resources, their relative social media savviness – and even their personality – arguably all things that dictate where presidential hopefuls will land in polling.

As part of the Lab’s ongoing  research on how social media is changing the ways in which people communicate, we have been collecting and analyzing publicly available Facebook posts found on the official Facebook Pages of the five leading U.S. presidential candidates: Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. The dataset used for this post was collected during a period of one month from January 21 to February 22, 2016. To analyse the posts collected we used the Lab’s automated social media analytics tool Netlytic.  In addition, we also manually reviewed and coded a small subset of the dataset containing the 25 most Liked posts from a two week period between February 2 and February 19, 2016. We opted to study Facebook post for this research as the social network enjoys the highest rate of usage by Americans, with 71% of the online U.S. adult population enrolled.  And Americans are using Facebook to discuss politics. Of the most talked about topics on Facebook (both globally and in America) in 2015, the U.S. presidential elections topped the list.