Big Data is no data if you collect the wrong data – how an analysis of social media predicted the Trump Presidency

Social analytics predicted Trump’s election. Big data is no data if it’s wrong data. Pollsters get big wakeup call

Forgotten Man & Woman versus Four More Years. Twitter stats you need to know , They’ll  shock or rock you

Make your tweets work harder. How Trump used the classic rule of three. Combined with #tags to stay on message

A new report by the global social media agency We Are Social, states that you could predict that Donald Trump was heading for the White House. You only had to analyse his social media following – in particular Twitter and Facebook. They used social media data and came up with the maths. Yes, they said Trump was on his way to the White House (they also claim to have predicted Brexit).

Polling in the past
So spare a thought for the ever-growing brigades of pollsters relying on traditional landlines and email ‘snail mail’ who first got Brexit one side of the pond wrong, and then moved across the pond only to make the wrong call on the US election. We should also possibly spare a passing thought for Newsweek as it recalls 125,000 copies of its souvenir Madam President issue. Like the majority they believed the polls. Well now we know. They were all wrong and not just by that old chestnut – the infamous ‘margin of error’.

125,000 copies recalled - the danger of buying into polls
125,000 copies recalled – the danger of buying into polls

Trump’s social media performance told a very different story from the polls, and the mainstream news media. Here’s the raw data released by We Are Social:

Social media audience size
Checked on 8 Nov 2016
Trump Clinton
Total 28.4m 21.8m
Facebook 12.3m 8.33m
Twitter 13.1m 10.3m
Instagram 2.97m 3.06m
YouTube 99.8k 135.1k

Facebook and Twitter were more powerful tools than pictures and videos. Read on.

A deeper dive into the metrics
In the last seven crucial days Trump led Clinton on every topline social media metric: quantity of posting, social interactions, positive interactions and sharing, according to We Are Social. Trump clocked up 16.3m likes and loves of his content in the last week, compared to just 13.1m for Clinton. Trump had amassed 28.4m followers across his social profiles, Clinton 21.8m.

And Trump has long had superior engagement in likes, comment, shares etc from his followers compared to Clinton. Shares of Trump content stood at 2.8m, ahead of Clinton’s 2.1m.

It’s all in the ‘like’ – it’s the hash tag, stoopid!
Trump’s most used and engaged hashtags include #AmericaFirst, #MakeAmericaGreatAgain and #MAGA.

In contrast, the Clinton camp actually had very few official hashtags – even #ImWithHer was driven by other accounts, rather than the official Clinton campaign.

In the final days, the biggest change from Trump’s campaign was a sudden and strong shift to a much more positive tone. His social profiles were filled with posts about America’s coming greatness under his presidency.

Clinton ups the ante but went the wrong way
In the last seven days coming up to polling day, Clinton suddenly became more active in terms of posting quantity. According to the We Are Social stats, she posted 266 times across her social channels compared to Trump’s 204 times – nearly half of this activity was on Twitter; followed by Facebook and, to a much lesser extent, Instagram and YouTube.

But the statistics speak for themselves – the total social engagement for Clinton was 16.9m, for Trump 23.3m. While Clinton’s posts encouraged her followers to celebrate their support, reminding people to vote, and to encourage others to do the same, Trump’s, despite doing slightly less, stayed focused on a few key messages.

He never forgot – ‘it’s a movement’ we have here. How he worked those three hashtags: #AmericaFirst, #MakeAmericaGreatAgain and #MAGA.

Retweets vs Likes – this will either shock you or rock you!
Remember the Obama campaign? It was hailed as a milestone in social media electioneering. Even here the analysis of individual Trump & Obama tweets shows an interesting reversal in the volume of likes and retweets and gives a clue to how Trump’s campaign was working for him. Two top examples make the case:

  • Barack Obama – ‘Four more years’ tweet, 7 November 2012
    On the day: 507k retweets, 173k favourites
  • Donald Trump – ‘The forgotten man and woman’ tweet, 9 November 2016
    216k retweets, 587k favourites

Added together, Trump’s tweet was overwhelmingly more popular but it fell far below Obama’s on re-tweets.. One theory is that many voters were reluctant to ‘come out’ as Trump supporters. The same was said of Brexiteers.

Trump’s first Tweet as President Elect – a master class in rhetoric


It’s pure classical rhetoric – cry your eyes out Cicero – the three touch points: fact/logos – Such a beautiful and important evening; pathos/emotion: The forgotten man and woman will never be forgotten again; credibility / ethos: We will all come together as never before.

If you want to read a more about Trump’s use of twitter, see my blog The classical triangulation theory behind the perfect tweet and All the Presidents game: How Reality TV and Twitter became comrades in arms for Donald Trump.

Judith Ingleton-Beer is CEO at IBA International

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