ANALYSIS: Never before have social media and even cyber-spying been used to such an enormous extent to shape voter sentiment
Trump’s Tweets routinely created news stories, sometimes because of his rude treatment of women, sometimes for his negative comments about others and sometimes for his unrelenting braggadocio.
The result of Trump’s Twitter activity was a constant presence in every news cycle, to the point that analysts on NBC reported that Trump received approximately three times the news coverage of Hillary Clinton. But the activities of the candidates, Trump on Twitter and Clinton on Facebook, weren’t all that was going on.
Agence France-Presse reports that Twitter robots artificially magnified Trump’s followers making it appear that he had dramatically more social media support than Clinton. There’s evidence that Clinton was also using ‘bots, but apparently not as many or they weren’t as good.
So why waste money on software robots to magnify one’s apparent popularity on social media? This one area where Trump, who knows a thing or two about showmanship and marketing, understood that the appearance of popularity is almost as important as the reality. If it appears that you have vast numbers of enthusiastic followers, then potential voters will believe you really do.
These ‘bots may be having some effect on the social media measures we’re using to determine voter sentiment. While the analysis engines at SocialBakers and CGI Solutions (LUX2016) are able to determine when messages are generated by automated accounts, they can’t determine when other real users are producing positive social media messages in response.
Still, that may not matter, if only because those real people are still expressing positive sentiment, even if the idea didn’t originate with them. On the other hand, the Clinton campaign has found its own way to increase positive notice, both on social media and in the real world.
Bots v celebrities
According to SocialBakers, Hillary Clinton is making good use of celebrity endorsements. “Clinton continues to win greater fan growth on Facebook, while Trump leads in fan growth on Twitter.
Over the past week, Clinton received 43 percent of all of her Facebook anger reactions throughout the last four weeks and received more Twitter mentions than Trump for the first time throughout the campaign,” a SocialBakers spokesperson told eWEEK.
“Despite the negative engagements with her posts, Clinton has a much larger circle of support among celebrities, and therefore access to their many followers. In that same vein, Clinton continues to build her campaign on the popularity of Michelle Obama. Four of her top five ‘Loved’ posts mention Michelle Obama.”
The spokesperson also noted that Trump has been very effective in getting positive sentiment from his Twitter-based videos, especially the live video programs his campaign has started posting.
At this point, the day before the election results become known, it’s impossible to say whether social media or the use of the Internet were decisive factors in the election of 2016.
But it’s certainly had significant influence. Tracking both the polls and the social media sentiment, major events in the cyber world, both in social media and in other cyber activity such as email, have been clearly reflected. But will they translate into votes? We’ll start to see as the polls close on Nov. 8.
Originally published on eWeek