The national GOP political debates, also known as the Donald Trump brand builders, set viewership records, which is notable since the next presidential election is more than a year away. Despite the success, these TV debates aren’t reaching what might be the most influential bloc in electing our next president.
The Republican Party started the election party early by completing its second successful candidate debate on a major cable television channel. So successful, in fact, that the first one on the Fox News Channel garnered 24 million viewers, meaning about one out of every six households was watching. The second debate hosted on CNN was equally popular with 23 million people watching, or the equivalent to the number of people who watched game seven of the 2014 World Series. That being said, Millennials ages 18-34 made up only 2.56 million viewers for the Fox debate and 2.74 million for CNN. They are roughly a quarter of the nation’s population, yet Millennials only represented one tenth of the TV viewers!
Engaging Millennials Where They Are
Here’s the problem for political campaigns: unlike older generations, Millennials aren’t watching much TV. And they’re not just skipping the debates; in general, as the chart below illustrates, the younger they are, the less TV they watch. And it’s getting worse.
Candidates, campaign managers and super PACs know they can’t afford to miss connecting with the Millennial vote, so they’re shifting a larger part of their strategy and budget away from TV and towards social media. This is where the Millennials are, and this is where they will be during the election cycle.
Donald Trump, no stranger to stirring the pot, actively engaged on Twitter to talk about his distaste for Megyn Kelley, co-host of the Fox debate. Trump has 4.3 million followers and uses Twitter often.
Jeb Bush actually announced his candidacy on Snapchat, trying to edge his way into the Millennial conversation and has also promoted his super PAC fundraiser events with Instagram videos.
Rand Paul’s advisors took an ad buying strategy into the second debate and bought placement on Twitter, Facebook and Google during the event.
Hillary Clinton live streamed her first major rally on New York’s Roosevelt Island via Twitter’s Periscope, another platform largely geared towards Millennials. This resulted in 4.7 million people interacting 10 million times after her speech on Facebook, and serves as a great example of why a cross-platform strategy is so important.
Clinton’s rival for the Democratic nomination, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, won the social media battle after the October 13 debate. According to the Wall Street Journal, Sanders was the topic of 407,000 mentions after the debate—more than all other Democratic candidates combined.
If radio in the 1950s gave candidates a voice, and TV gave them a face in the ‘60s and beyond, then social media in the 21st century, among other things, gives them a very specific way to reach voters who aren’t on those traditional media.
Using the Array of Social Platforms
At this point, effectively using a social strategy to significantly earn a Millennial vote really becomes about tactics. After all, Millennials aren’t on just one social network, they are on three…per day! If you want to reach them, you have to implement a cross-platform strategy. How well the candidates use the social networks to complement each other could be the difference between being president of the United States…or not.
Here’s what a game plan might look like: Twitter for real-time engagement during the debates on TV. Facebook and Instagram for infographics and video snippets that are candidate differentiators. Snapchat to show the human side of a candidate. Meerkat and Periscope to broadcast events. These are all audience extenders and could truly affect voting.
Is it overwhelming? Yes. But it’s also necessary.
By the way, the next nationally televised Republican debate is October 28 on CNBC.