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Sniffles, shuffles and social media: Presidential debate breaks Twitter records

social media politics study trump  clinton
Twitter was transformed into a treasure trove of live chatter during last night’s presidential debate, the first of three between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. From fact-checking tweets to hilarious memes, the invaluable commentary dished out by the platform’s users bolstered Twitter’s second-screen stature.

According to the platform, the showdown between Trump and Clinton was the most tweeted about presidential debate ever — although official figures are yet to be released. What we know for sure is that it definitely generated more engagement than the previous record holder, the 2012 presidential debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, which resulted in 10.3 million tweets being shared over the course of 90 minutes.

Both Trump and Clinton’s respective camps are currently touting victory, but there was one clear Twitter winner in terms of interaction. Donald Trump dominated the Twitter conversation during the debate, with 62 percent of interactions mentioning the GOP nominee, compared to just 38 percent for Clinton. However, that may not be a reason to celebrate, considering the amount of lampooning that took place on the platform last night.

Final share of Twitter conversation around the candidates on stage:

62% – @realDonaldTrump
38% – @HillaryClinton

— Twitter Government (@gov) September 27, 2016

In fact, the most retweeted tweet was Trump’s very own climate change post from 2012, which has now been shared over 94,000 times, according to the official Twitter Government account.

The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 6, 2012

In terms of original interactions, the top tweeted moment related to Trump’s comments on his “good temperament.” In second place was Trump’s statement on stop and frisk, with Clinton finally getting a look in third place over her exchange with Trump regarding ISIS. The most tweeted topics of the night (in order of popularity) were the economy, foreign affairs, energy and the environment, terrorism, and guns.

The data paints a rather serious picture, depicting a social media platform rife with discussion  over some of the nation’s pressing issues. Seeing as this is Twitter we’re talking about, however, that wasn’t necessarily the case. A significant portion of the talk skipped the political agenda to poke fun at the body language of the two presidential hopefuls. A parody account entitled @TrumpSniff came to life and quickly garnered thousands of followers, and a GIF of Clinton shuffling back-to back with Shaq became Twitter’s favorite new meme.

When it's #debatenight but you stay cool

— Jimmy Donofrio (@JimmyDonofrio) September 27, 2016

Twitter COO Adam Bain remarked that the debate was “tremendous for us,” reports The Drum. Bain, who was speaking at the IAB Mixx event in New York on Tuesday, added: “This concept around the connected audience is amazing … Seeing the moment live was kind of like being in an audience like this … [like being] in a bar last night, watching. There’s a community feeling that exists in real life.”

With a speculated Twitter takeover currently dominating headlines, the engagement boost that inevitably comes with live events should help emphasize the platform’s strengths, as touted by its leadership.

Any analysis of social media would not be complete without a mention of live video. Both Twitter and Facebook hosted live-streams of the presidential debates, with the latter claiming that real-time debate broadcasts on its platform received 55 million views. Overall, Facebook reports that 18.6 million people in the U.S. generated almost 74 million likes, posts, comments, and shares in connection with the debate. Again, Trump was the victor on Facebook, grabbing a 79-percent share of debate interactions, compared to Clinton’s 21 percent.

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Saqib Shah
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Saqib Shah is a Twitter addict and film fan with an obsessive interest in pop culture trends. In his spare time he can be…
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