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How Social Media and “The Cyber” Responded to the First Debate

No matter which side of the political spectrum you fall on, chances are great that this recent election cycle has been stressing you out. Not only are both candidates considered more polarizing than eating pizza with silverware, but the sheer drawn-out spectacle of the primaries has made the whole process seem trapped in a hyperbolic time chamber. Yes, that was a Dragonball Z reference.

Those who are ready for this election season to be over just saw their first major step Monday night, and boy has everyone been talking about it. In fact, the debate was the most watched in history as well as the one with the most social mentions. Therefore, the true winner of the debate was resoundingly clear: those crazy kids and the olds doing their social medias on the cyber.

Tweets, Facebook statuses and other social media postings flew about with such velocity during the debate that each candidate got at least one mention per U.S. citizen. Live streams of the debate also saw more views than any single Olympic event.


Unlike past engagement, these actions have lingered long after the debate podiums have been put back in storage, allowing politicians and even brands to segment audiences based on their reactions and what sort of comments got them talking the most.

Let’s Give ‘Em Somethin’ to Talk About

According to Twitter, the top three moments of the debates for tweet velocity were:

  1. Donald Trump assuring the audience he had a “good temperament”
  2. His response to Hillary Clinton about “law and order” as well as stop and frisk
  3. The exchange between both candidates regarding their plans to handle ISIS

Another hot topic on Twitter was Trump’s sniffling heard frequently during the debates, which he attributed to a “faulty microphone.” Many were also apt to recount Richard Nixon’s ill-fated debate 1960 presidential debate with John F. Kennedy — the first ever televised — including Nixon’s now-notorious flop sweat.

Twitter also saw the most shares from a post made in 2012, the one where Donald Trump alleged that China invented global warming as a hoax.

Facebook spokesperson Andy Stone went on record to declare that 73.8 million posts, comments, shares and likes were performed in direct reference to the debate between 18.6 million people. The most buzzworthy topics concerned racial issues, the economy, crime, taxes and ISIS.

Trump prompted the most Facebook reactions in both the first and second halves of the debate. His early response to Clinton: “She tells you how to fight ISIS on her website. I don’t think General Douglas MacArthur would like that too much” garnered many comments, as did his assertion: “My strongest asset is my temperament” in the second half.

In total, Trump won out on mentions hands down. Between both positive and negative responses, he dominated 79 percent of the Facebook conversation and 62 percent of Twitter. Does that mean “The Donald” won the debate? We’ll leave that for the pundits to decide.

Livestream CEO Jesse Hertzberg likened the social media commentary to “attending an eclectic cocktail party” because of the “revealing” nature of most responses.

The Aftermath for Digital Marketing

In terms of the candidates, both succeeded in drawing attention to their campaign and driving social engagement. Even negative responses pull focus, after all. And since Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton are two of the most polarizing candidates in history, both will receive plenty of attention for years to come.


And while each candidate team begins poring over data gleaned from the responses, so, too, will the social media platforms and peripheral services like Periscope learn lessons about preparing for high-anticipation events that generate social buzz.

Even brands can get smarter as a result of the surge in engagement since it shows how impressions can lead to action when the topic is something people cannot help but respond to.

If you are steering clear of participating in televised debates but still want to know how to get people talking about you, EverSpark can help you wise up by studying the engagement successes and failures of the evening. Take a look at our digital marketing services to learn more about how we get companies noticed online.