Internet Famous: How to Become President

A week before Americans queued up to submit their ballots, a Trump victory looked far from inevitable.

On the 1st of November, across the pond, I was sitting on a panel at Oxford University discussing the impact of social media on the election.

“Trump might be the Twitter candidate, but he’s also losing,” pointed out one of the other panelists. Somebody raised their hand and asked about the likelihood of a “Snapchat candidate” in 2020. Everyone laughed.

Fast forward to the election post-mortem and looking back at that conversation got me thinking about the importance of “internet fame” and its new role in politics.

If you want to learn how to become President post-2016, you’ve come to the right place.

Become President by bringing the sass

One of the first things we’ve learned from this election cycle is that scoring political points over Twitter does no harm to your campaign.

Trump got away with branding his opponent “Crooked Hillary” to the point that “crook” became one of the most popular ways to refer to her on the social network.

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton’s “Delete your account” comment was definitely a high point in her Twitter career (even if it was cooked up by a community manager).

Angry Twitter rants, tweeting at 3am, the winning candidate did it all. It could set a (fairly scary) new precedent for what’s considered “acceptable” in future elections.

Become President by boosting your influence

Donald Trump’s enormous Twitter and Facebook following may not be the cause of his election victory, but it probably helped.

Let’s consider Twitter influence for a moment (measured by looking at a selection of criteria including follower/following ratio, the amount of engagement generated and the influence of the people they interact with). Among the ten most influential men on Twitter, three have expressed a public interest in becoming President and two have been successful.

Kanye’s in a potentially powerful position if he can keep his influence through to 2020.

In case you’re wondering, Hillary Clinton didn’t make it into the top 10 most influential women and was less influential than Trump during the election cycle.

Become President by being internet famous

It definitely poses the question of what impact “internet fame” could have on future elections. In 2020 will it be a given that you have millions of followers on the platforms of the day? Will it be a requirement?

Hypothetically speaking, the 2020 Presidential race could be even more dramatic than 2016’s. If we’re to consider internet fame as a potentially important aspect of a Presidential campaign two names immediately spring to mind: Kanye and Biden.

Kanye West has expressed his interest in running and Joe Biden recently stated that he wouldn’t rule it out. Given Kanye’s ability to shake up the internet and Biden’s transformation from Vice President into  “Prankster Biden” meme (he’s been dubbed “Meme-in-Chief”), they’re an interesting pair to pitch against each other.

Kanye’s 26.6 million-strong Twitter following speaks for itself, while Joe Biden is well behind at just 1.38 million. A “fan account” named @JokerJoeBiden is definitely boosting his social numbers though.

On Google things aren’t looking good for Biden. Kanye’s announcement during the 2015 VMAs definitely got people’s attention, while despite a lot of “will he, won’t he?” in 2015, Biden failed to get nearly the same amount of interest in his potential 2016 campaign.

Here’s that chart including a Trump and Clinton comparison – Kanye’s announcement spike is higher than Hillary Clinton’s when she became the Democratic nominee in July.

Hype generation obviously doesn’t make someone President, but it was something that made Donald Trump stand apart as a serious candidate all the way back to the beginning of the year. Both Kanye and Biden have had eventful weeks, with Biden taking over his potential rival on social mentions on Monday but Kanye regaining his lead on Tuesday.

If Kanye can get the levels of attention Trump garnered during his race he’ll be a strong contender. And, since he’s quite good at saying controversial things, he’ll probably get the news coverage too. Biden might have to bring out his fictional joker if he’s to compete.

How to become President

If Donald Trump’s performance on social media is anything to go by, running for President has become a bigger job than visiting potential voters, appearances in the (now much-hated) “mainstream media” and actually getting your policies together. It’s about engaging masses of people online, being timely and witty and, importantly, seeming authentic.

Can Kanye use his internet influence to become a viable Presidential candidate? And should Joe Biden start leveraging his new meme status and boost his following if he’s considering running in 2020, or will he find a different way?

After 2016 anything can happen.

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