Industries in Depth

Hillary Clinton v Donald Trump: who's winning on Twitter?

A combination photo shows U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton (L) and Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump (R) in Los Angeles, California on May 5, 2016 and in Eugene, Oregon, U.S. on May 6, 2016 respectively.

Clinton or Trump ... which candidate is more effective on social media? Image: REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson and Jim Urquhart

Matthias Lüfkens
Managing Director, Digital, Burson-Marsteller
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The election campaign in the United States is entering its decisive phase. Both candidates are fighting it out on every medium from newspapers to television – and social media is no exception.

So who’s top on Twitter? According to the latest Twiplomacy analysis, Donald Trump is in the lead, at least in terms of followers and engagement.

As of July this year, @realDonaldTrump had 10,267,655 followers, placing him in 177th position among the global Twitterati. If elected tomorrow, he would be the third most followed world leader. (Pope Francis has 30 million followers and India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi has 20 million.)

With her 7,765,519 followers @HillaryClinton is in 275th position worldwide and would be the fourth most followed world leader.


Both candidates have witnessed exponential growth in the number of their Twitter followers during their respective primaries. According to, in late 2015 Trump overtook Clinton in terms of followers. His account is still growing, adding an average of 30,574 new followers per day. The @HillaryClinton account, meanwhile, counts 22,086 new followers each day.

Image: Wall Street Journal

Which candidate is more effective?

In terms of efficacy, Donald Trump would seem to outperform Hillary Clinton, since his tweets have been retweeted a total of 12 million times – twice as many as Clinton’s, which have been retweeted 5.5 million times.

Trump has also received 33 million likes for his tweets, almost three times as many as Clinton, who has a total of 12 million likes. Trump averages 5,639 retweets per tweet, compared with 2,154 retweets per tweet for Clinton. It’s not possible to say at this point whether the Trump campaign uses paid promotion to boost its posts.

Donald Trump, who set up his account on 18 March 2009, has sent a total of 32,697 tweets, almost five times as many tweets as Hillary Clinton, who only joined four years later, on 9 April 2013, after leaving the State Department. However, Clinton has been more prolific over the past six months, averaging 18 tweets per day compared with Trump’s 12 tweets per day.

One in every five tweets on the @HillaryClinton account is either a retweet or a quoted tweet, mainly from @TheBriefing2016 and the @HFA campaign accounts. Only 5% of Trump’s tweets are retweets or quoted tweets, including several tweets from his children @EricTrump and @DonaldJTrumpJr.

Do they talk to each other?

Hillary Clinton’s most popular tweet, with more than a million interactions, was her quip at Donald Trump to delete his Twitter account. Donald Trump replied by asking: “How long did it take your staff (…) to think that up”. It became his most popular tweet.


However, in general the two opponents do not directly interact with each other on Twitter.

While Hillary Clinton only mentions other Twitter users in every fifth tweet, 92 of the 580 user mentions are for the @realDonaldTrump, more than any other Twitter user mentioned on her account, including @POTUS (81 mentions) and her husband @BillClinton (51 mentions).

Donald Trump’s team, on the other hand, does not mention @HillaryClinton's Twitter handle. Donald Trump consistently mentions other Twitter users in two-thirds of his tweets, often mentioning his own account @realDonaldTrump (226 mentions), but also @FoxNews (71 mentions), @CNN (52) and Fox News anchor @MegynKelly (42 mentions) for their allegedly biased and unfair reporting.


It remains to be seen which strategy is better: engaging with and mentioning your opponent’s Twitter account or simply ignoring it.

Neither of the two candidates are very conversational on their Twitter channels: Clinton has replied to 16 other users, including a personal message to singer Jennifer Lopez, while Trump has sent 20 @replies, to praise positive contributions and sometimes challenge media reports.

Hashtags wars

Donald Trump includes a hashtag in almost every other tweet, including #Trump2016, used 279 times, and #MakeAmericaGreatAgain, used 186 times. Hillary Clinton is more sparing, using hashtags in only 14% of her tweets; most commonly #DemDebate and #DemTownhall. She has also used hashtags to react to her opponent during the Republican National Convention (#RNCinCLE used 50 times) and the #GOPDebate.

Both candidates make good use of visuals, and both accounts post photos in 17% of their tweets. Clinton posts more videos and animated gifs (one in every six tweets). Only 5% of Trump’s tweets contain a video, and these are often a link to his YouTube channel. He also includes fewer links, with only one in every fifth containing one, while 43% of Clinton's tweets contain a link, often to her campaign website.

Who is most followed by other world leaders?

Foreign leaders seem to favour Hillary Clinton: 124 heads of state, heads of government and ministers of foreign affairs follow the presidential candidate. Donald Trump, on the other hand, is only followed by 24 of the 800 world leaders on Twitter, including the @IsraeliPM and Ghana’s president @JDMahama. So far, neither Trump nor Clinton have reciprocated and do not follow any other foreign leader on Twitter.

Nationally, Clinton is following the @WhiteHouse, @POTUS and @FLOTUS. These official administration accounts, however, are legally prohibited to follow, endorse or @mention either candidate. Among the 690 Twitter users Clinton follows are her campaign staff as well as her husband @BillClinton and daughter @ChelseaClinton.

It is interesting to note that while President Barack Obama endorsed Hillary Clinton at the Democratic convention he has not mentioned her on the @BarackObama campaign account, which is the most followed account of any world leader (it has 76 million followers).

Donald Trump currently follows only 44 other Twitter accounts, including his different properties (hotels and golf courses), his wife @MelaniaTrump and his children @DonaldJTrumpJr, @IvankaTrump, @EricTrump and @TiffanyATrump.

And finally, it’s somewhat ironic to note that while their parents fight it out on social media, daughters @ChelseaClinton and @IvankaTrump follow each other on Twitter.


About this study

Twiplomacy is an award-winning global study of world leaders on social media, conducted by Burson-Marsteller. The 2016 edition has analysed 2,146 tweets by @realDonaldTrump and 3,198 tweets by @HillaryClinton, sent between 1 February and 27 July 2016. Find out more at @Twiplomacy

Hat tip to the Wall Street Journal.

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