Andrew Yang ended his presidential campaign before the New Hampshire primary results were revealed on Feb.11. The start-up veteran will not win the 2020 Democratic nomination, but he had a social media strategy which was highly successful in engaging the public.
It’s hard to overstate the role Twitter now plays in politics. Politicians use this platform to interact with constituents, humanize their campaigns, and more directly influence the news cycle. All Democratic candidates have Twitter accounts, providing a large amount of data for some interesting analysis.
The data for this analysis was collected on December 3, 2019, and January 28, 2020, through Twitter API. The over 20,000 tweets are from Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, and Andrew Yang. Since Yang called himself a ‘math guy,’ this project is going to take a closer look at his social media presence, in a ‘mathy’ way.
Yang is different from other frontrunners because he is the only candidate of colour and he had never run for office before or had any significant presence in American political circles. Most of the American public had never heard of him until two years ago when he entered the already-crowded Democratic ‘fight club’ with his radical Universal Basic Income plan. At that point, he had just over 90,000 Twitter followers.
Keep Tweeting and Tweet more
Starting as a politics newbie, Yang was in dire need of garnering attention to reach his potential voters using social media. On Twitter, his strategy is very clear: tweet as much as he can.
From October 2019 to the end of January in 2020, Yang posted 40 tweets a day on average — this is almost the average number of tweets from Joe Biden in a week. Though he joined three years after Bernie Sanders, Yang’s account now has almost as many tweets as that of Sanders’.
Other candidates may have used Twitter to relentlessly promote themselves, particularly during the debate weeks when their Tweets peaked in these weeks. Yang’s Tweets, however, did not fluctuate this way, and he tweeted more than any candidate in any week.
Make it simple, make it short
Unlike giving speeches on campaign rallies or publishing a post on Facebook, the length of content on Twitter has a strict limit. A Candidate needs to be efficient when sending off Tweets: in order to be as informative and engaging as possible within 280 characters.
The politically seasoned candidates prefer to utilize the full capacity of Twitter, particularly Warren and Sanders, whose tweet’s median length is more than 200 characters. But Yang leverages the social media platform to have conversations with his supporters — he writes short. Nobody likes listening to long preaching speeches from a friend or receiving a text message which rambles for hundreds of words. Yang tweets just like he’s talking to a friend.
He also posts tweets with a simple vocabulary that a 10-year-old student can comprehend. A Flesch–Kincaid readability analysis found that Yang’s Tweets are more readable than other candidates. However, Tweets from all Candidates are very accessible to the public, since the aim is to reach to the widest range of constituents.
Be a native internet language speaker
Making Tweets understandable is just one step. Engagement is the key to a successful Twitter campaign.
Politicians on Twitter are no different than commercial entities who use Twitter to market themselves and promote brand images. Candidates, particularly during election seasons, communicate their political agenda and are outspoken on social issues on Twitter.
However, such communication shouldn’t be a one-way street. Social media is different from the old-school methods of communication because it’s interactive. The author of an engaging Tweet needs to be fluent in Internet jargon, meaning that one has to frequently be part of trending online discussion, seamlessly integrate text with emojis and constantly respond to followers.
No one knows better how to sound like social media savvy than Andrew Yang. He stands out from other Democratic candidates by sending out tweets that are loaded with emojis, hashtags and mentions. The average number of these special characters is impressive considering the comparatively short length of his tweets.
Yang’s campaign manager Zach Graumann noted that they are ‘playing a different game. And they’re working.’ Yang’s Twitter account tells the same story.
By the end of January, Yang’s Twitter account had only one-tenth of Sanders’ followers, but during the time the data was collected, his follower count increased by nearly 15 percent, the largest surge among the five candidates.
People had noticed that during December’s debate in Los Angeles, Yang had the least speaking time, but the largest gains on social media. And on the day of Iowa Primary, the hashtag about him became one of the most trending topics on Twitter in the U.S., ahead of #MondayMotivation and #IowaCaucuses.
Though Yang ended his pursuit of the top office, his leveraging of social media will set a precedent for many politicians. Public figures in politics need to acknowledge that social media is no longer the place that they can share a message and have the public passively receive it. Voters, especially the younger generation, want to connect with and vote for candidates that they feel that they can interact with on a very personal level through social media. And this is the legacy that Andrew Yang leaves this election year.