This present case study intends to focus on Hillary Clinton as one sample of how social media is being utilized to communicate on a large scale in our world today. It aims to show how the Clinton campaign perceives itself and how views its rivals when it comes to social media, regardless of whether this self-perception has always been echoed in the views of the target audience.
The rivalry between the Republicans and Democrats in the race for the American presidency has been manifesting itself in the virtual and the real worlds alike. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton both rely on social media to appeal to American voters while promoting themselves and offending one another in a very well-established social media strategy.
Jenna Lowenstein, digital director for the Clinton campaign, works with a team of more than 100 content creators and social media strategists. The campaign closely follows the debates, appearances, and political stances of Clinton, as well as her counterarguments to the very controversial Trump.
The heated tweets between the two sides reached their peak when Hillary tweeted, asking Trump to “[d]elete your account.” At the time of this writing (July 2016), the tweet had gained 636,000 likes and 482,000 retweets. Her tweet, which was seen around the world, was only one of the most viral examples of her newly adopted aggressive strategy to take the 2016 fight directly to Donald Trump on his favorite social media platform. Lowenstein says the tweet reflects the efforts of a talented staff of writers who love the art of riffing—and know how to cultivate a voice on the Internet.
The social media efforts of Hillary’s campaign aim to bring forth donations, volunteers, and voter turnout. In July 2016, the campaign launched a Spanish-language website and Twitter account, a Facebook Live of staffers reading the case names of more than 5,500 lawsuits associated with Trump, a Snapchat filter trolling the Republican National Convention, and a social media tool called “Trump Yourself” that allows users to overlay Trump’s most controversial statements on their Facebook profile photos.
Even the “Trump Yourself” tool—a smart way to produce user-generated content with an oppositional message—captured demographic data and email addresses. In a few weeks, TrumpYourself.org had been viewed 1.2 million times by 800,000 unique visitors, half of whom imported their photos to the website.
“What we’re seeing is a shift toward political attention being driven by social sharing processes. I think the Clinton campaign is very clearly aware of these new dynamics and has worked very hard to be on many different platforms,” says Daniel Kreiss, associate professor in the School of Media and Journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
When content is not directly written or assigned by Clinton, Lowenstein’s team channels her personality by focusing on their candidate’s values, sense of humor, and communication style, which is direct and to the point.
“There are two ways to get compelling content out on social media,” Clinton’s campaign spokesman Jesse Ferguson said in an interview. “One is to be over the top, insulting, and saying outrageous things—otherwise known as the Trump strategy. And one is to be fair, accurate, targeted, and informative. That’s very much what we’re doing.”
In any case, these two viral campaigns leave the world with two critical questions. Does media generated by campaigns come at the expense of traditional media outlets? Does the candidate who wins on Twitter and other social media platforms win in reality? The results would definitely be an indicator of the extent to which the real and the virtual have become intertwined!