Social Media Tactics Backfiring in the 2016 Presidential Race

Already, this presidential race has proven to be dominated by which candidate can utilize social media the best. Because of all of the press coverings of candidate Donald Trump, many young voters, particularly millennials, have been paying close attention to this presidential race. This is great for voter turnout, and I expect it to be the highest ever. However, candidates are forced to reach out to this younger generation of voters through social media to seem relatable and to humanize themselves. Currently 16% of registered voters follow candidates on social media, which is up 10% from 2010. Hilary Clinton has been one of the most active candidates on social media, reaching more than four million Twitter followers, getting more than one million Facebook Likes, and creating accounts on Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, and Spotify (Brousell, 2015).


As beneficial as social media can be to a candidate’s platform, a mishap can be fatal to their hope for being elected president. Bill Jasso, a PR professor at Syracuse University, says that “the problem with immediacy is that it offers you an opportunity but also a big danger. When there is that break in continuity or consistency, it can be fatally damaging to a candidate” (Brousell, 2015).

Many candidates have experienced mistakes in their social media strategies this year already, such as New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. He attempted a to launch his candidacy with a Twitter campaign using #TellingItLikeItIs. This quickly became a tool for people against Christie to reveal scandals about his administration (Flynn, 2015).

Donald Trump has experienced far more social media mishaps than any other candidate thus far, with numerous offensive tweets. In July, Donald Trump tweeted a picture of an American Flag with his picture and some others on it, with the hashtag #MakeAmericaGreatAgain. On the bottom line of the flag, there was a picture of Nazi soldiers! This tweet quickly got deleted, and Trump blamed the mistake on an intern (Donovan, 2015). He also tweeted something on 9/11/2015 which was very offensive to many American citizens, and he quickly deleted that as well.


Another social media strategy that backfired against Trump was his #AskTrump campaign. The goal of this was to encourage voters to ask him questions about his campaign so that he could then answer on a live feed. As the rest of the world could have expected, users asked him about his highly publicized negative moments, such as his rude comments about Megyn Kelly and Rosie O’Donnell, his calls for Obama to release his birth certificate, and controversial aspects of his personal life. During the live feed, he avoided all of these questions.(Marcin, 2015).

Screen Shot 2015-10-18 at 6.37.06 PM

Jason DeMers, a contributor on, wrote an article recently called 5 Fatal Mistakes That Will Kill Your Social Media Marketing Campaign. Although this article is directed towards businesses pursuing social media advertising, I think it can apply for political candidates as well. Fatal mistake #1, according to DeMers, is posting offensive material. This mistake is made very often by candidates! Mistake #2 is misinterpreting a trend. Candidates need to make sure that they are aware of all current trends so they avoid misinterpreting something or accidentally offending groups of people. Mistake #3 is paying for shortcuts, i.e. followers. Candidates do not just need high follower counts, they need for their followers to interact positively with them. Fatal mistake #4 is ignoring feedback, and #5 is going silent. These days, candidates should be posting multiple times a day on various platforms to keep their supporters (and their opponents) engaged (DeMers 2015).


Brousell, L. (27 Aug 2015). Why social media could swing the 2016 presidential election. CIO. Retrieved from

DeMers, J. (8 Oct 2015). 5 Fatal Mistakes That Will Kill Your Social Media Marketing Campaign. Forbes. Retrieved from

Donovan, L. (15 Jul 2015). Donald Trump’s Social Media Intern Makes Huge Mistake, Shows Why Hiring a Social Media Professional is Crucial. Business 2 Community. Retrieved from

Flynn, K. (1 Jul 2015). Christie, Jindal Twitter Hashtag Fails Show Presidential Campaigns Still Struggle with Social Like It’s 2008. International Business Times. Retrieved from

Marcin, T. (21 Sept 2015). #AskTrump Hashtag Backfires: Donald Trump Twitter Headquarters Visit Prompts Social Media Backlash. International Business Times. Retrieved from


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s