Presidential candidates succeed on Twitter with sass, pop culture, and youth appeal

It turns out that if you’re a presidential candidate and you want to go far on Twitter, you’ll have to get a tad irreverent and get the kids talking.

Analysing the tweets of the mainstream candidates since their respective campaign announcements, we found that displays of panache, pop culture savvy, and even a little sass seem to go far.

The most-popular tweets reflect both the image that candidates want to project and the messaging their supporters respond to most. 

That being said, sass and pop culture seem to be solid bets for any candidate.

For instance, since the announcement of her presidential bid, Hillary Clinton has had the most retweets and favourites with a tweet referencing the British boy band, One Direction:

Tweets that appeal to the younger part of Clinton’s base seemed to trend toward the greatest success: her next two most popular tweets celebrated the then-recent decision to legalise gay marriage nationwide, and after that came the declaration that “No student should have to borrow money to pay tuition at a public college.” 

Hillary got some more heat tweeting her takes on current events, supporting women’s reproductive rights, sharing throwback photos, and throwing down at Donald Trump.

Throwing down, however, is Trump’s specialty.

As in his offline campaign, Trump gets a lot of attention when he is calling out public figures and institutions like President Obama or Fox News.

The republican frontrunner also has a tendency toward name-calling. His most-favorited tweet refers to the United States’ “‘politically correct’ fools” and he saw massive engagement when he called those opposed to a border wall “foolish people.” 

Tweets using all capital letters, exclamation points, and both simultaneously also frequently appear.

Trump’s most-retweeted moment, however, was when he congratulated Tom Brady for his overturned suspension:

If Trump has Tom Brady and Clinton has One Direction, who does Sanders have? As it turns out — “Back to the Future:”

Bernie Sanders is supposedly a social media wiz, and though his Twitter following pales in comparison to that of Clinton and Trump, he gets a comparable amount of engagement from his fans online. He made noise when he live-tweeted the second GOP debate — with many of his hottest tweets coming from that night —  but his biggest tweet yet was actually a comment from the first debate:

His next biggest tweet was a shot at Trump on the issue of women’s health (the topic is consistently a hit for him), and after that, he scored big with sarcasm aimed at the GOP debaters and George W. Bush. Many of Sanders’ tweets are rooted in policy and ideology  — the latter of which is a favourite of republican Ben Carson.

Carson’s biggest tweets tout his faith. Carson sought spiritual guidance before the first and second debates. His most popular tweet yet doesn’t break the mould:

But Carson doesn’t forget to give his competitors a little ribbing. Most notably, a video where his campaign staff found different uses for Clinton’s book made the top of his list. Clinton’s position is secure compared to that of Jeb Bush who, despite high expectations early in the race, has been sagging in the polls.

Bush has shown that Twitter is not his forte, with a comparatively minuscule 348,000 followers — a bit more than the Environmental Protection Agency at 325,000.

Jeb’s top tweet might look a bit odd out of context: “Sorry Mum” refers to the candidate’s admission that he had smoked pot some 40 years ago. After that tweet, however, things get a little sad. 

When Clinton posted about the size of American student debt, Bush’s campaign landed their third biggest tweet by cropping the Clinton graphics to mock the Obama administration.

The tweet earned about 3,000 retweets and 2,500 favourites, only to get smacked in message and in numbers by Clinton’s rebuttal. Bush’s somewhat uninspired rebuttal to the rebuttal earned him his third biggest post.

Image copyBusiness Insider/Dan TurkelData current as of evening, October 21st, 2015.

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