How Social Engagement Played Out Before the Iowa Caucuses

Published on Feb 2nd, 2016

by Jack Weinstein

Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio made the most significant gains during the Republican Iowa Caucus, winning and finishing third, respectively. And each candidate saw their audiences engage more frequently than their GOP challengers.

Cruz and Rubio generated the highest average engagement per post (average number of actions on each post as a percentage of fan count) among the candidates on Facebook. Rubio’s average engagement per post Monday was 3% and Cruz’s was 1%. That may not seem like a lot, but to compare, Trump’s was less than 0.4%.

Average engagement per post helps illustrate how much more meaningful the audiences of Cruz and Rubio found their messaging leading up to the Iowa Caucus. Their audiences didn’t just like, comment on and share that content, but engaged at a higher frequency than fans of the other candidates.

Trump still generated the most engagement among GOP candidates, but his margin of victory was much smaller than it was during the Jan. 14 and Jan. 28 debates.

Trump captured 29.4% of total social actions (likes, comments, shares and retweets) among GOP presidential candidates on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. He was followed by Ben Carson (23.2%), Rand Paul (16.2%), Ted Cruz (15.5%) and Marco Rubio (6.7%).

Trump’s social activity declined 65% on Monday compared with Sunday, helping to explain his narrow margin over the other candidates. While they also generated less engagement Monday, Trump saw the greatest decline. Cruz’s engagement dropped 13% while Rubio’s dipped by just 2%.

Cruz, who took the Iowa Caucus among Republicans with nearly 28% of the vote, posted the most-engaged GOP content after the results were tallied (which is still generating actions).

Sees Engagement Gain

Hillary Clinton held a slight edge over Bernie Sanders in the polls before the Iowa Caucus and she was forecast to win by a wide margin.

But Sanders, like Cruz and Rubio did to Trump, outperformed Clinton when comparing the candidates’ average engagement per post. Clinton’s declined on Monday when compared with Sunday while Sanders saw a 200% increase.

While the Democratic Iowa Caucus nearly ended in a tie , Clinton edged Sanders on social. Clinton captured 52% of the engagement generated by Democrats, compared with 47.5% for Sanders.

Democratic candidate Martin O’Malley captured less than 0.5% of the social actions, which was similar to the vote he received in Iowa. He suspended his campaign late Monday. (Republican candidate Mike Huckabee also withdrew from the race.)

The most-engaged posts Monday from several candidates on both sides, including Sanders , Trump , Carson featured calls to action. Candidates encouraged Iowans to caucus and asked for their votes.

Who did you engage with on social during the Iowa Caucuses? Let us know in the comments.

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