Who won 2016’s first presidential debate—Facebook or Twitter?

The platforms captured a huge portion of viewers’ attention as the presidential candidates sparred onstage.

"Republican Party debate stage" by Gage Skidmore via (CC BY-SA 2.0)

As millions tuned in to watch presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump verbally duke it out on Monday night, another competition arose.

Which captured more audience attention—Facebook or Twitter?

Both platforms have bragging rights.

USA Today reported:

Twitter spokesman Nick Pacilio called it the “most tweeted debate ever,” though final numbers were not available yet. There were 10 million tweets during the first presidential debate in 2012, according to Twitter.

Politico reported:

Nearly 55 million people viewed “debate-related” live videos on Facebook, the social media site said Tuesday morning.

It’s not clear for how long people would watch the videos, but the high number adds to the expectation that more than 80 million people will have watched the debate on television.

In terms of the candidates, Trump won by a landslide-if the debate were a contest to garner the most social media mentions.

CNN Money reported:

On both Twitter and Facebook, Trump was a livelier subject than Clinton. Twitter said the “final share of conversation around the candidates on stage” was 62% for Trump and 38% for Clinton.

On Facebook, the results were even more lopsided, with Trump earning 79% share of conversation and Clinton having the remaining 21%.

Though Trump dominated the online conversation, analysts say the night was a victory for Clinton.

“Early indications suggest Hillary won the debate; [she] at least didn’t lose,” Jack Ablin, chief investment officer for BMO Private Bank, told CNBC. “Futures are higher, and the peso is rallying.”

Voters agreed that Clinton came out ahead, CNN reported:

Hillary Clinton was deemed the winner of Monday night’s debate by 62% of voters who tuned in to watch, while just 27% said they thought Donald Trump had the better night, according to a CNN/ORC Poll of voters who watched the debate.

Both Clinton and Trump have embraced social media as a part of their voter outreach, and continued to do so in preparation for Monday’s debate.

CNet reported:

With the race in a virtual dead heat , the debate provoked an outpouring of political expression on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other social media. With that expectation, Clinton’s team recently sent supporters an email asking them to “advocate on every online platform on the night she goes head to head with Trump.” Meanwhile, Trump bought a Snapchat filter.

Though Trump came out ahead with mentions, both candidates’ teams were active online throughout the debate. Also, garnering the most mentions can be a double-edged sword, if the conversation is snarky or an old unsavory social media post is dug up.

CNN Money reported:

Many fact-checkers and Trump critics pointed to a Trump tweet from 2012 when the GOP nominee denied calling global warning a Chinese hoax. The four-year-old message suddenly became the most retweeted political tweet of the evening.

Here’s the tweet in question:

The fight to capture votes—and eyeballs—rages on


Both Facebook and Twitter secured contracts to live-stream this year’s election coverage, starting with the conventions and moving to the debates.

On Monday, Motherboard laid out Facebook’s offerings:

With Facebook, two hours before each of this fall’s debates begin, ABC News will begin streaming a segment known as “Straight Talk” with anchors Matthew Dowd and LZ Granderson. This will be followed by the live debate, and then coverage will conclude with post-debate analysis. According to ABC News, the network plans to also include coverage of footage in the post-debate media room, along with commentary from both anchors and correspondents.

Essentially, on Facebook, you’ll receive the type of coverage that you would if you were watching ABC, with the exception that you have the entire world watching with you, responding to what you’re all seeing in real time.

Motherboard also explained how Twitter’s coverage would look:

Meanwhile, Twitter’s coverage comes at the hands of Bloomberg Politics. Like Facebook’s coverage, Twitter will also air before and after debate coverage. Bloomberg will offer a 30-minute before and after segment that allows viewers to process the debate with commentary and analysis.

Fast Company further explained how Twitter planned to make it easy for viewers to become involved in the discussion during the debate:

Twitter won’t require anyone to sign up for the service, or even download the app, to watch online-you’ll just have to punch debate.twitter.com into your URL bar. The official debate hashtags: #debates and #debates2016 will each auto-populate an emoji. And whether you’re watching on your smartphone or via Apple TV or another device, the live stream will feature a curated Twitter timeline and the platform will allow users to tweet direct from the live stream page (or from the Moments tab in the mobile app). Through a partnership with the Commission on Presidential Debates, moderator Lester Holt may even end up asking the candidates questions curated from users live on air.

Experts haven’t called a winner in the faceoff between social platforms, making the race between Facebook and Twitter mirror the fight for the Oval Office. The online competition no doubt will continue through Election Night.



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