This week Hillary Clinton became the first woman presidential nominee of a major political party. Clinton, like Republican nominee Donald Trump, faced stiff competition through this year’s historically, and technologically, unprecedented primary cycle. As with all campaigns, trends came and went: Bernie Sanders’ social media-powered fundraising machine, Ted Cruz’s data operation, #marcomentum. But the nominees’ dominance at the polls and online was unchecked from January through June.

SEE: Get ready for big data’s wild ride (Tech Pro Research analysis)

Since mid-January, 2016 TechRepublic used social media data to track presidential candidate performance. Like Trump, Clinton was the polling leader for the duration of the campaign. And perhaps for the first time in history, Clinton and Trump were also the social media leaders for the duration of the campaign. Though it may seem like a bromide to political and tech pundits, Clinton and Trump’s strong performance online provided strong evidence that social analytics are predictive analytics.

Twitter Data

The blue bars in the above graph are a sample taken from June 6th through June 9th and display the percentage of follower increase leading up to and right after the California primary. These bars represent new followers added since our previous sample on May 5th.

  • Sanders and Trump gained Twitter followers at a rate of about 15% during the June sample period, on pace with their monthly average.
  • Clinton outperformed her rivals in new followers growth during the same period. Our previous month polling anticipated Clinton would gain about 14.5% new followers. Instead she earned 20% during this period.

READ: Elizabeth Warren unleashes tweetstorm on Trump, Pence, GOP platform (CBS News)

The red bars represent an increase in followers in May, over April numbers.

  • All three candidates experienced a significant uptick of new Twitter followers in the month leading up to the final primary election.
  • Clinton’s account has experienced the biggest jump in follower count, compared to Sanders and Trump. Sanders had a 150% increase, Trump had a 156% increase, and Clinton had a 168% increase.
Image: OpenText Sentiment Data

OpenText Sentiment Analysis

In March TechRepublic worked with data firm OpenText to analyze candidate social media sentiment using its election tracker tool. We partnered with OpenText in early June to analyze how candidates performed on traditional and social media during the final set of primaries. We tracked 72 hours of media coverage leading up to election day. Here’s what we discovered:

  • In the three days leading up to June’s final Super Tuesday news outlets wrote 3,445 stories about the election or candidates. According to the election tracker, about 58% of the stories had a negative tone and 33% were positive. This shows that coverage of the election itself was mostly negative.
  • In the 72 hours prior to the final primary no candidate–Clinton, Sanders, or Trump– earned a significant amount of positive media mentions. Less than 20% of all media mentions were positive, and the majority of candidate mentions were neutral.
  • 35% of Donald Trump’s media coverage was negative, compared to 24% negative mentions for Hillary Clinton.
  • “California” was the most popular state keyword discussed by news companies, and “delegate,” “superdelegate,” and “student” were the leading trending topics.
  • In the three days prior to the election, though he clinched the Republican nomination a month prior, Donald Trump was the most-discussed candidate and was mentioned by online news outlets 1,257 times. Clinton was mentioned 1,020 times, and Bernie Sanders trailed the pack with 638 online media mentions.
  • Interestingly, in the two weeks prior to the June election Donald Trump was mentioned 5,007 times, and Bernie Sanders was mentioned 2,124 times. This demonstrates a precipitous drop-off for Sanders just before the primary.
  • The media companies most heavily covering the campaign were: Business Insider, Mashable, Huffington Post.
  • In May Donald Trump’s campaign was covered five times more often than Clinton’s campaign.

As the campaign transitions towards the General Election, TechRepublic will continue to track social and legacy media analytics. Social platforms like Twitter were young and fresh during the 2008 campaign. In 2012 social media was useful, but had not yet matured and was not a primary marketing tool for either campaign.

SEE: Innovation is key to business success (Tech Pro Research story)

Today, social media is an undeniable force. The Clinton campaign has a team of staffers creating content for every major social media platform. In contrast, Trump has miniscule campaign infrastructure, but a massive social media footprint. The twists and turns of the campaign remain unknown, but one trend is abundantly clear: 2016 is the first social media election, and social media is the weapon of choice for both candidates.

Over the course of the campaign TechRepublic will continue to perform simple data analysis. We hope to uncover unique insights and find ways business can benefit from campaign innovations.

If you’re a data scientist, social media professional, or inquisitive TechRepublic reader we’d love your ideas on how to inspect campaign social media data. Please leave a comment below or ping us on Twitter @TechRepublic.

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