$8 Billion dollars is the estimated amount of earned media during the 2016 American presidential campaign. Most of it went to the Republican nominee, Donald Trump. For every media mention his Democratic counterpart Hillary Clinton earned, Trump added one more.
The man who branded himself a few decades ago, came out of what seemed to be nowhere and took over the Republican Party with literally no political or government experience. Trump dominated headlines for months and months, gaining popularity that turned into voters who gave him the nomination over more experienced candidates such as Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio.
How did he do it?
Well, Donald Trump made himself a Twitter influencer, tweeting his way to the position his rivals wasted millions and millions of dollars in campaigns to not even come close to. He used social media to spread his slogan with the hashtag #MakeAmericaGreatAgain, and if he wasn’t on TV or in stage at a rally — he was active on Twitter at all hours of the day and night. He connected with others, commented on the mainstream media and reports about him, causing everybody to talk about him even more. He hasn’t stopped using his social media influence since he became President Elect. Why would he? “I won”, he said days after the election, crediting social media for his victory
During one of the televised debates between the candidates, Trump said “Twitter is a modern form of communication”, explaining both why he tweets so much, and the main reason buzzwords like “social media”, “earned media”, “hashtags” and “influencer marketing” have been part of the media coverage around the November 8 elections.
Hillary Clinton’s strategy leaned more towards using celebrity endorsements (using their personal powerful brands), and influencer marketing only at the finish line, when it was already too late. She branded herself differently from her opponent’s pundit style tweet-storms and Twitter rants. And she lost, by not recognizing the power of social media influence in time.
In other words, Clinton’s choices were more old school marketing and advertising, combined with a bad slogan and strategy targeted to a smaller range of voters.
While Trump was listening to the public discourse, and using his influencers (his family and other surrogates and established Republicans with influence and credibility), Hillary was collaborating with celebrities, not influencers and corporate (media outlet) brands as ambassadors — to get her political message out. In fact, she sent undecided voters to the right by using celebrities as brand ambassadors.
Very early on, Clinton hired two top corporate branding specialists who are stars at marketing veteran brands to new and diverse audiences to help her team of strategists rebrand herself in a more authentic way in order to engage with the younger voters.
Wendy Clark, from Coca-Cola, and Roy Spence from Southwest Airlines and Wal-Mart were in charge of what the Washington Post called “Hillary 5.0”
Pretty much from the get-go, she used social media to expose a more approachable (and authentic) side of her, and to reach the younger millennial crowd that pushed her former opponent en route to the Democratic nomination, Bernie Sanders, who surprised everyone with his #FeelTheBern loyal followers. This attempt to rebrand herself did not remain unnoticed. Back in July 2015, Clinton’s strategy was compared to pop icon Taylor Swift’s.
Almost a year and a half later, there are even more similarities between the two blondes use of collaborations with other brands, and Clinton’s recent move involved a Swift like narrative, by employing YouTube. Not only did the videos urge voters to take action on voting day, they were targeted towards the most important states during the final two weeks of the presidential campaign: Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Now, if the Clinton campaign had chosen the RIGHT topic-related influencers, and used “every day” experts to get a clear and coherent message out regarding policies — she might have generated the earned media influencer marketing done right generates. Instead, she chased the master of marketing and influence all the way to the bitter end.
Another savvy use of social media influence to drive customers could be seen from Trump’s side, as his daughter, Ivanka, used her own influence and social media accounts to boost sales for the family business.
As for President Elect Trump, he’s using social media yet again as his main medium to get his message out, via online influence whether to comment on the headlines about him in the news on Twitter, or to address the American people for the first time in a YouTube video — breaking the norm of previous Presidents to do so via traditional press conferences, capitalizing on his influence even more.