He was winning in social media, so he lost in social media. What part you don’t understand? - a read from the newest issue of „Gazeta Bankowa” monthly magazine
By: MAKSYMILIAN (MAX) WYSOCKI, managing editor of wGospodarce.pl economic portal, and experienced social media marketer
Should we say, the 2020 US presidential campaign on social media was the last campaign of the free world and the first of this „wonderful” Brave New World. Donald Trump was winning in social media, so he lost in social media. What part don’t you understand? It wasn’t an election. It was a prelude to Cyberpunk’s 2077 future vision of Corporate Wars
This feels like listening to Razorlight’s „America”, but this is serious. What can social media data tell us about the campaign and the results of the 2020 US elections? A lot. First of all, in the era of pandemics and lockdowns, when all activity had to move online, whoever played better the Social Media communities card, had won. Already as many as 72 percent US citizens of the voting age actively use some some form of social media, and as many as 69 percent of citizens of voting age use Facebook alone.
The US elections also showed the use of two completely different approaches – one is that the better social media marketing staff makes the most significant difference, and the candidate can still only be a merchandise in hands of proficient marketers (as long as he just breaths, it’s OK, the do all the rest). The rest is up to the marketing team. The tactic of Biden’s staff was to fight an open visor, according to ripped, old patterns, straight from globaln network advertising agencies. Less creative, but based on well proven standards. Trump played a second tactic, more Guerrilla like. Again, he played on the emotional notes, using the channels in a way conspiracy theorists do - it was enough to stand out well above previous polls, but it did not win. He could say „And I would get away with it if not for those pesky kids”, but instead maybe he would replace a word „kids” with „global corporations”. Was it because the social media leaders were against him? At a critical point, yes, they were, but it was dictated by a blackmail with advertising money.
Quality like a Punch (in a nose)
Both sides in their campaigns carried out completely different communication in social media. The Joe Biden campaign used the proven patterns of the second Obama campaign, reaching for a wide range of tools, e.g. virtual rallies, live broadcasts, questions from voters in a much larger dimension, resulting from the restrictions imposed by the pandemic. And while Biden’s campaign itself introduced many interesting innovations, e.g. related to the use of stories on Instagram, it was obvious that the former vice president feels best at traditional rallies, even those conducted as drive-ins, and is driven more by the energy of direct contact. The opposite of offline Joe is Bernie Sanders, who makes good personal contact in social media with the youngest voters - says Magdalena Górnicka-Partyka, key account manager at the 121PR agency, analyst of Barack Obama’s image.
As she emphasizes, Biden’s team made sure that voters were digitally prepared. They created, among others The Digital Toolkit, which was a list of ideas and resources to get involved on the Democratic candidate side. These were avatars, graphics, photo frames, as well as a mobile application. Everything worked flawlessly throughout the campaign and also after the election evening, when the counting of votes was prolonged for several days. The content published by Biden’s team (the candidate himself, a candidate for vice president and their spouses) calmed down the mood, toned down emotions, but gave hope.
Democrats had a very well-thought-out strategy, impeccable execution and interesting content reaching their voters, and even expanding the base, such as viral content about the fact that it’s time to return of a dog to the White House, because Donald Trump did not have his pet - says Magdalena Górnicka-Partyka . - Much freshness of Biden’s campaign, which he also chose on-line out of caution, brought co-opting to Kamala Harris’s team. She understands social media well, which can be seen, among others through published content: rally dancing, leaving the plane in sneakers or even a viral video after the election results are announced, where he calls Joe Biden, announcing that they have won the White House. Since the beginning of her participation in the primaries, she has also been supported by the committed #KHive community - modeled on the Beyonce fan network. On the other hand, in the case of the Republicans, an orderly campaign in social media was conducted mainly by … Ivanka Trump. Her father has traditionally used Twitter as a mouthpiece, mixing political commentary, campaign content and information about current political decisions, she adds.
In terms of political marketing, the best „inventions” and advantages of the Democrat campaign include: the hallmark of Kamala Harris - her sneakers on Instagram, reaching young voters - live with Billie Eilis (American singer and songwriter performing alternative and pop music. Winner of five Grammy Awards, three MTV Video Music Awards and two MTV Europe Music Awards 2019) and Biden dogs as „proof of character” of the candidate. Could the voting POP-electorate have become so shallow that to „go out to people, wave, kiss a child” it is enough to add fashionable sneakers to win?
When money talks, You listen!
In the 2020 US election, social media played a greater role than ever in the presidential race. Both candidates have committed unprecedented amounts of resources and budget to their social campaign. This means the Democrats have learned their lesson from the previous campaign.
In 2016, it was Donald Trump who unexpectedly won the election, defeating Hillary Clinton, who had twice the budget. Paradoxically, the supposedly up-to-date Democrats have underestimated the power of virtual communities or the fact that one dollar spent promoting them there brings more than widely spent streams of money elsewhere. It was especially Donald Trump’s use of Twitter that had a huge impact on the 2016 election result.
Facebook played the greatest role in the paid campaign - a platform that analyzes the behavior of its users in terms of over 150 factors, knows practically everything that is necessary to define our voting preferences and to make the difference. In addition, until the elections in 2016, Facebook was very eager to share such data, giving access to practically everyone who wanted to advertise on this platform - assesses Mariusz Galewski, partner at the Internet Planet agency, on-line marketing expert.
It was then used by Cambridge Analytica, which obtained data from 87 million Facebook users. By creating advanced profiles, it defined the group of undecided voters very precisely.
They sent to them political advertising highlighting these qualities of the candidate, which were the most important for this group of voters, while at the same time discrediting the rival.
You have to remember that in the 2016 election campaign, virtually all major TV stations except Fox News sided with Hillary Clinton. Without social media, Donald Trump’s victory would be impossible - emphasizes Galewski.
In 2020, candidates used platforms such as YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to connect with their voters, often using fact-checking, news articles, and political ads to discredit their opponents and gain support. As with the 2016 elections, social media helped shape the course of events, and candidates often hunted for „viral moments” of specific posts, comments or videos.
In the early part of the pandemic, Joe Biden campaigned from his basement - more precisely speaking, a multimedia studio, improvised in the basement of his house. Donald Trump had it much easier, as the US president he was constantly present in the traditional media. He had constant contact with journalists, and his opinions were widely quoted by the mainstream media. This was at least the case until the pandemic outbreak broke out.
Fact-checking and (no-goldie) locks
Contrary to previous elections, this time the US election campaign in social media was not a free-for-all. The scandal over the use of Facebook data by Cambridge Analytica - revealed just after Donald Trump’s 2016 election - led to stricter regulations on the collection of personal data for political advertising purposes. Many platforms have implemented stricter rules on publishable content and have incorporated fact-checking software into their applications. A paradox unveiled, the tool that was supposed to solve the problem generated further tensions. It has disqualified the posts of… Donald Trump and had done it many times. The incumbent president immediately accused social media owners of biased interference and censorship of his campaign.
The problem with Facebook was that the law released this company from liability for content published by third parties (so-called Section 230), while at the same time there were internal regulations giving it the freedom to delete accounts and posts. Facebook was virtually untouchable, and Zuckerberg could actually do whatever he liked on the platform. Therefore, the only form of pressure was money - assesses Mariusz Galewski, marketing expert, partner at the Internet Planet agency. - In my opinion, the Black Lives Matters social campaign was used to exert pressure on Facebook. More than 100 global brands have threatened to stop advertising on this platform if it does not stop „promoting” Donald Trump’s „hate speech”, he adds.
It worked instantly. Facebook has imposed restrictions on advertising on social and political issues. A few weeks before November 3, Facebook also announced that all such posts would be banned one week before election day. Extensive hand-tightening in communities has also begun.
Although Facebook closed conspiracy groups like QAnon during the campaign, we must remember that exactly in such Facebook’s closed groups of this type Donald Trump’s electorate was largely mobilized. As the election results show, it’s thanks to the activity of local groups and subgroups, the still-current president achieved a much higher result than the polls had forecasted, even until the end, says Magdalena Górnicka-Partyka.
At the end of the campaign, Twitter also introduced new regulations that allowed for fake news verification. The US president, whose entries began to be tagged as such, treated it as an attack on his candidacy and picking a side by Twitter in a political dispute. Was most of what Trump said was fake news then? Therefore, one of the important observations and the question at the same time is, for example, why Biden finaly exceeded Trump on Twitter, even though Trump had as many as 80 million more followers than Biden? Was it somehow caused by the interactions themselves, which increased Biden’s reach, or by blocking protrump content and removing it and many accounts as alleged sources of fake news? After all, at the end of the campaign, the involvement of all parties should only increase, as it usually does. The chart above shows that something was wrong here.
Corporate Wars, that is: Trump lost to the corporation of Corporations
In the end, for Trump, things went south. Apparently, on one hand, you don’t enter the same river twice. But on the other hand, with US election campaign in 2020, it turned out that not only yes, you can, but you can also turn back the river of time. Not with a stick, but with money, because the rules, as always, are made of money. And by whoever has them. The colorless candidate with a boring, dull and just lame campaign won. That would never be possible without the cash-forced change of rules.
Certain universal truths do not change: no matter how much money you have, it’s worse for you step on a foot of someone who has much more, even if you are a very wealthy and successful president of the world’s greatest power - you cannot win against corporations. And that would be just enough to show againts this beautiful leftist vision of a brave new world, where social sensitivity is only a pretext for a new business, the one who does not have enough money is still and always will be wrong. „It’s a brave new-old world,” you might say, travesting Aldous Huxley’s 1932 title of the anti-utopia. Yes, it’s a brave new-old world.
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