The Impact of Social Media on the 2016 Election

Politicians strive to reach the people in the most modern and personal way possible. At first this was through the radio, then television, and in recent years, social media. Barack Obama was the first presidential candidate to take full advantage of reaching voters through social media. Social media’s impact on elections only escalated from there to the 2016 election. While both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton used social media to further their campaign, the candidates did so in very different ways.

According to, 44% of adults reported having learned about the 2016 presidential election in the past week from social media, outpacing both local and national print newspapers. While both Clinton and Trump posted about the same frequency during the election, they differ in the focus of their posts. On Facebook, Clinton linked primarily to highlights from official campaign communication while Trump linked to news media. Both of these strategies can have advantages and disadvantages. By linking to her own campaign material, Clinton has the advantage of controlling exactly what type of content she displays to the public. While trump risks finding reliable sources giving positive news about himself, the news he does find and link on his page come from outside sources, which makes them seem more trustworthy.

Both Clinton and Trump averaged roughly five to seven posts on Facebook a day and eleven to twelve Twitter posts a day during the campaign. However, Trump’s posts received far more attention than Clinton’s. This could be partially due to Trump’s higher follower count across all platforms. Trump also had a few “breakaway” posts meaning that these posts received a much higher rate of interaction and retweets than his normal posts. Trump’s Facebook post on supporting the police was shared over 72,000 times. Hillary remained steady in her average of 5,600 shares with her highest being a Facebook post attacking Trump that received 15,000 shares, still nowhere near Trump’s post. The other important thing to note about this is that Clinton’s most popular post mentions Trump, even if it’s not in a good way. The more his name circulates the more others will look into him, think about him, and view his posts.

So how big of a role in the election did social media really play? Some people will say it controlled the outcome of the election completely. According to U.S. News, a study was published by the journal PLOS One that claims, “social media use had no measurable aggregate influence on issue beliefs.” This seems hard to believe, but it makes more sense when we take a look at social media algorithms. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram all use something called a called filter bubble. Filter bubbles are part of algorithms that figure out what a person likes based on their activity on social media and show them that content. For example, a social media platform can for the most part figure out if a user is a democrat or republican based on what they read, click on, like, type and share. The platform will then show them either mostly or only content than aligns with his or her political views which ultimately reinforces the users’ already help beliefs. While news articles or outlets may offer a more diverse perspective on an election, social media wants to show users what they like, therefore it most likely will not change a users’ beliefs significantly.

Valentí Sanjuan and Using Social Media to To Turn Passion into a Career

If you love what you do, you never work a day in your life. I’ve heard this phrase many times. It inspires me to find something that I truly love doing and make a career out of it. While I still struggle in finding my one thing that I love to do, many people have already found their passion and have made successful careers out of it. Let’s be real though, not all passions as a full-time job produce a livable wage. However, tools like social media and digital production can be used to share a passion or specialty with the public and create a following. A large social media following can create opportunities to turn one’s passion into a lucrative business. This past Thursday I had the pleasure of listening to Valentí Sanjuan speak, who has turned his passion into a career using the power of social media and video.

Ten years ago, during the economic crash, Valentí Sanjuan lost his job, girlfriend, house and mother all in a span of eight months. After falling into a time of deep sadness and anxiety, Sanjuan found joy in his daily runs. This joy built up so strong that Sanjuan decided he wanted to take his fitness to the next level and train for an Ironman Triathlon. An Ironman Triathlon consists of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bicycle ride and a marathon 26.22-mile run, raced in that order and is considered to be one of the most difficult and physically demanding races sporting events in the world. This was clearly no ordinary task so Sanjuan decided that he wanted to share his experience of running and Ironman with the world. As social media was just picking up speed Sanjuan learned how to use several popular platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and a few years later, Instagram to tell his story and explain his emotions while competing in Ironman Triathlons.

As Valentí Sanjuan continued to post videos about his races on Instagram, @sanjuanvalenti, and YouTube, more and more people became interested in him. His story and his actions inspired the public. They followed him because they could relate to something in him. Of course, not everyone is going out and doing Ironman Triathlons after watching his videos, but there is a more general message in the videos that make people question, “what am I doing?” This Question of “what am I doing?” is something that Sanjuan discussed with us when I listened to his speak. When audiences see that Sanjuan is training hard and living his dream it encourages them to ask themselves, what their own excuse is to not find happiness and do what they love. During the talk Sanjuan told us, “do what you want, travel what you want, study what you want.” This message is what helps him connect with his audience. People use his extreme case of success to relate it to their own small, daily hardships and find the motivation to keep going and maybe even start something new.

Since his first video, Sanjuan’s impressive physical accomplishments have grown along with his following. He has since completed ten Ironman Triathlons in ten days, several Ultraman Races, and he bike, ran, and swam his way back to Barcelona after completing one of the most difficult bike races in the world in Africa. He explained that great content is key in building a following and a brand. Sanjuan said that it is vital to have amazing content so that you can connect with your audience. When you connect with your audience and gain a following, brands will want to sponsor you and “pay for the whole thing.” By looking at Sanjuan’s Instagram, it is easy to see how he connects with his audience. Starting at the top, a bio is important to let your audience know what you do and give a first impression of your brand. Sanjuan’s bio reads, “As a child I wanted to be a superhero, but something went wrong. Since then I travel the world via Ironmans, Ultramans and crazy races in general.” This bio begins with a quirky statement that invites the audience to recognize the fun and adventurous spirit in Valentí Sanjuan. Additional he is already relating to his viewers, after all, who didn’t want to be a superhero when they were little? He then gives a brief, one sentence summery about what he doe and what can be expected from his account. The pictures and videos following the bio don’t disappoint. Sanjuan posts clear, high quality pictures of him in action, him with his bike, him with friends at races, and even some of the physical results and strains on his body after a race. The beautiful content gives off an upbeat and positive vibe. Sanjuan is happy in all of his pictures. He somehow even seems to radiate positivity in the videos when he is shown struggling through a race. On top of the fantastic content that connects with audiences, Sanjuan also utilizes technical elements of Instagram. He has several Instagram story highlights, IGTV, and a link to his YouTube in his bio.

While Valentí Sanjuan is a great example of how social media can turn one’s passion into a fulltime job, he is not the only one. Another one of my personal favorite examples is the Blonde Abroad. The Blonde Abroad, aka Kiki, is a California woman that quit her job to as she writes on her blog, “embrace on a summer of soul searching.” Through her summer travels she realized her passion for solo, female world travel and began a blog for women who want to travel the world alone or with a group. Kiki used content to connect with her audience and inspire people to travel. She highlights her favorite spots on her Instagram @theblondeabroad and on her blog. While she uses incredible imagery in her content, it is the connection she builds with her audience that boosts her brand and builds her following.

Both Valentí Sanjuan and the Blonde Abroad turned their passions into careers by inspiring their audience through social media. Offering a unique and emotional perspective on things that not everyone can experience first-hand peaks peoples’ interest. This combined with the inspiration that follows asking oneself, “why not me?” creates a connection with the audience that continues to grow as more content is created. While it is important for pictures to be pretty, it is the emotional connection that makes audiences follow creators.