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Research Unveils how Former Presidential Candidates Failed to Harness Social Media

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Jerry Robinson, a Ph.D. candidate at the School of Information Studies (iSchool) and researcher with Illuminating 2016, a new project at the iSchool’s Center for Computational and Data Sciences, tracking the Twitter and Facebook feeds of active presidential campaigns, writes in Columbia Journalism Review that failed former Republican frontrunners Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina under-utilized social media.”

Jerry Robinson

“(GOP presidential nominee Donald) Trump has done a superb job of using social media to garner both mainstream media attention and the public’s eye. But just how important has social media strategy become in campaigning? One way to answer that question is to look at the social media strategies of two of Trump’s failed competitors: Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina,” writes Robinson.

Robinson writes that there are a few strong similarities between the trajectories of the Fiorina and Carson campaigns. Both proudly touted their status as outsiders to politics—Ben Carson as a well-known neurosurgeon and Carly Fiorina as first female CEO of a top-20 US corporation, Hewlett Packard. Both enjoyed a brief period of popularity followed by a precipitous drop in poll numbers. However, the momentum that Carson and Fiorina experienced was short lived. And after each languished in the polls for four months, both candidates suspended their campaigns.

"Both candidates, as shown by the Illuminating 2016 site, likely under-utilized social media when they probably should have used it most,” said Robinson. “There is no evidence that either candidate’s social media utilization patterns influenced his or her performance in the polls. Comparing their social media behaviors to their performance on the campaign trail, however, does reveal a disparity between social media strategies and what each candidate faced offline.”

More information about this research can be read in Robinson’s article Carson, Fiorina failed to leverage social media as their campaigns peaked.

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