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Trump vs Biden — Who is winning the social media war ahead of US presidential election

Donald Trump's Facebook page received 130 million interactions over the past month while Joe Biden’s just 18 million. But the democratic nominee is narrowing the gap on Twitter.

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New Delhi: US presidential nominee Joe Biden may have outspent incumbent Donald Trump by $36 million on TV ads, but the Democratic challenger has been trailing in terms of engagement on social media.

Trump’s official Facebook page has received 130 million likes, reactions, comments and shares over the past month while Biden’s page got just 18 million, according to The New York Times report based on CrowdTangle, Facebook’s research tool.

In terms of the types of engagement on Facebook, Trump has increased the proportion of people who ‘loved‘ his posts (by clicking the heart emoticon) between 2016 and 2020. Biden received far fewer ‘love’ and ‘angry’ reactions than Trump did in the same period.

It should, however, be noted that engagement data does not reflect how many people have viewed or clicked on posts but only shows how strong a reaction they elicit.

Biden’s digital disadvantage is not only because he started his social media campaign a little late but also because he has a much smaller online support base. Across Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, Trump has a total of over 144 million followers while Biden has about 21 million.

A regular tweeter, Trump also has a knack for ‘organic campaigning‘ — social media activity that occurs without paid promotion — which he earlier said had helped him win the 2016 election.

Also read: Affluent voters, presence in swing states — why Indian-Americans matter to both Trump & Biden

Facebook is Trump’s strong suit

Over the last two months, Trump’s engagement on Facebook jumped to 130 million from 86 million interactions while Biden’s grew to 18 million from 10 million.

The numbers were highest when Trump was hospitalised after contracting Covid-19 and also when he shared a New York Post article about Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, in an alleged corruption scandal.

Though Twitter and Facebook had limited visibility of the article citing concerns about its facts and alleged hacking of information, the story went viral. It generated 2.59 million interactions on Facebook and Twitter around mid-October, with some observing that the action taken by the two social media giants may have attracted more attention to the story.

Chief executive officers of Twitter, Facebook and Google were later grilled by Republican Senators over their actions, with some even accusing the tech giants of harbouring an anti-conservative bias.

As of July, Trump was making about 14 posts a day on Facebook while Biden did about half of that. Trump campaigners also made digital efforts, such as the ‘Team Trump Online!’ — a nightly live broadcast streamed on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other platforms. It has featured Vice President Mike Pence and daughter-in-law Lara Trump too.

Biden, meanwhile, has been unsuccessful in achieving the levels of Facebook engagement even Hillary Clinton did in 2016. He received more sad reactions this year on Facebook than Clinton did that year.

Not all is lost for Biden

When it comes to the social media war on Twitter, the picture is different. Despite having about one-tenth the number of Trump’s followers, data from media intelligence company Conviva has found that Biden has begun to narrow the gap of Twitter engagement.

Since the start of this year, Biden’s monthly average of interactions per post and video as well as adding new followers have steadily increased.

It has also been found that Biden has a ‘small but active‘ support base on Facebook. He has a healthy traction of people who like, comment and share his posts on Facebook at a similar rate to Trump’s followers and higher than the rates Clinton managed.

The Biden campaign has also tried to expand his digital footprint by recruiting Instagram supporters to hold virtual fundraisers such as the ‘Bake for Biden’ initiative. He has also appeared on Facebook and YouTube lives with influencers like Elle Walker, who has three million subscribers, and Dulce Candy, a beauty vlogger and veteran with more than two million supporters.

Also read: Trump vs Biden? 5 key issues on which Americans will vote for next President


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