The 2016 Presidential primaries are well under way, and not surprisingly, all of the candidates are actively using social media to rally support.

Here's how the two candidates for the Democratic party, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, are using social media.

Hillary Clinton

Stats At-A-Glance

  • Twitter followers: 6.04m
  • Facebook Likes: 3.2m
  • Instagram followers: 1.1m
  • YouTube views: 10.9m

The front-runner for the Democratic nomination, Hillary Clinton not surprisingly has a presence on all of the major social networks.

Twitter is her most prolific channel – she's very active on the service and now has over 6m followers – but has also made use of other networks, like Instagram.

According to social media analytics firm Captiv8, Clinton posted the most content overall of any candidate in either party to Instagram between May 2015 and January 2016.

She had also accrued the most Likes on Instagram of any candidate in either party.

Clinton's social media campaign has been likened to a a "new media startup" because she has a large full-time staff dedicated to producing original digital content. 

As USA Today's Heidi M. Przybyla detailed, the focus on original content has led some to compare the Clinton social media effort to the operations of successful digital publishers like BuzzFeed and Vox.

Clinton's digital manager, Teddy Goff, who helped lead the Obama digital campaigns in 2008 and 2012, says the strategy has to be different in 2016.

"[Before], we felt that we could pretty much reach the people we need to reach by running a really good Twitter and Facebook account," he stated.

Now, individuals have "a higher set of expectations for how they’re going to be served." 

Despite the fact that Clinton looks to be the Democratic nominee, her competitor, Bernie Sanders, is besting her in some corners of the social mediasphere, something that the Clinton campaign appears to have struggled with.

This past week it was announced that a Super PAC supporting Clinton plans to spend $1m to challenge Bernie supporters online, a strategy that might be smart but that some have questioned.

Bernie Sanders

Stats At-A-Glance

  • Twitter followers: 2.04m
  • Facebook Likes: 4m
  • Instagram followers: 1.2m
  • YouTube views: 27.6m

While Bernie Sanders trails Hillary Clinton in the delegate count, he's ahead of her on many social networks, including Facebook and Instagram.

His social lead over Clinton is most pronounced on YouTube, where he has accumulated more than 131,000 subscribers and his videos have racked up more than 27.6m views.

That's just shy of three times Clinton's number of subscribers (Clinton has just 44,000 subscribers) and video views.

The fact that Sanders is besting the front-runner on social media success is not surprising. 

According to Captiv8, Sanders has the most engaged online audience (defined as Likes per follower) of any candidate in either party.

Sanders’s social success, which has led to the popular #FeeltheBern hashtag, isn't accidental.

His digital campaign is run by Revolution Messaging, whose CEO, Scott Goodstein, was the external online director of the 2008 Obama presidential campaign.

That campaign was a breakthrough for the use of social media in a political race, but Goodstein is quick to note that the Sanders social media blueprint isn't a copy of Obama's.

Today, Goodstein and his team have more experience and knowledge, as well as more social networks and larger social networks.

There are also tools like Slack, which the Sanders team uses to communicate.

They have put all of those to good use, but ultimately, Goldstein believes Sanders's social success is about Sanders...

You want to make sure that social media and digital all have the same authentic voice and reflect the exact campaign and candidate message - [and Sanders’s message] is amazing.

For more on this topic, read: Seven lessons Obama's digital team learned from A/B testing emails.

Patricio Robles

Published 26 April, 2016 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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