How many Twitter followers would President Abraham Lincoln have had when he was running for re-election in 1864? #VoteLincoln

Okay, so maybe that’s a little ridiculous, but my point is that society’s use of social media is changing the way politicians think about their election campaigns. The candidates running for the 2016 presidential election are allocating more of their advertising budgets to social media than ever before, but this doesn’t mean that each candidate is using social media the same way.

If we just take a look at the difference in the number of followers between certain candidates, we can see that some candidates are using platforms like Twitter to a much greater extent. Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have over 4 million followers on Twitter. Compared with Jeb Bush’s 282 thousand and Sen. Bernie Sander’s 395 thousand followers, it’s clear that Clinton and Trump are doing something different.

But Why Does It Matter?

As I’ve discussed in my previous blog, Candidates and Their Campaigns, the digital advertising spending for the 2016 presidential race is predicted to exceed $1 billion for the first time in history. With over half of that money going to social media platforms, it’s clear that candidates are realizing the advantages of advertising their name with different platforms.

Twitter realizes this as well. In a recent article by FORBES, they explain Twitter’s plans to expand political ad offerings during the 2016 election year. Twitter is looking to step-up its game from the 2012 presidential election where they offered limited advertising options for candidates.

Why the Push?

One of the big reasons behind Twitter’s push to be competitive in this campaign is because of the missed opportunities it had in the previous election. Twitter’s head of political sales, Jenna Golden explained, “During the 2012 cycle, Twitter’s ad products were new to the market and had limited targeting options.” But they’re looking to change that this time around.

Twitter has developed a reputation as an “as-it-happens” platform. The article tells us that Twitter has become a “second screen” for people watching live events. Marketers utilize Twitter’s conversation style posting to connect with their audiences in a more personal way. These new advertising expansions are a way for candidates to reach out and target prospective voters based on an assortment of criteria.

So What’s New?

Here’s a list of some of the new features Twitter has rolling out for the 2016 presidential election.

Tailored Audiences – this feature was created to give candidates more options to target audiences with promoted tweets. Candidates can tailor their audiences three different ways with this new feature.

  • Website re-targeting
  • Email list matching
  • User IDs

TV Targeting – Twitter starting offering this feature which collects keywords, hashtags, and phrases as a broadcasts happens in real-time. Campaigns can then deliver ads to those users who search for those terms.

Different Display Features – videos, photos, and infographics are now “auto-expanded” in users’ feed. Also new are “Lead Generation” cards where users are able to submit their email addresses in promoted tweets without leaving the platform.

These new features are Twitter’s way of providing the best opportunities for candidates to reach potential voters in the upcoming election. And while we may see and hear about national election, the true test of digital advertising will be the effect it has on small campaigns. State level or community level elections are beginning to have a larger presence on digital advertising.

So as the voting day for the 2016 presidential election begins to creep closer and closer, get ready to see more tweets, pictures, and hashtags than ever before.

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