The general election is here
Both Trump and Biden begin the general election with massive online megaphones
📣 This week’s newsletter is sponsored by Civic Shout.
Meatball Ron’s embarrassing exit from the presidential race on Sunday and Donald Trump’s resounding victory in New Hampshire on Tuesday means that Donald Trump is increasingly likely to be the Republican nominee. A general election race between former President Trump and President Biden - the first such rematch of major party nominees since 1956 - will no doubt be chaotic and unpredictable.
Both candidates benefit from massive online audiences that they have built up over many years on sites like Facebook, Instagram, X, and others. In this week’s FWIW, we’ll share data on the reach of both campaigns as 2024 heats up. But first…
By the numbers
FWIW, political advertisers spent just over $8.2 million on Facebook and Instagram ads last week. These were the top ten spenders nationwide:
Right-wing media personality and disgruntled former FOX employee Tucker Carlson started running Facebook ads last week, promoting his new media endeavor while spreading xenophobic content in a handful of new video ads.
In addition to spending millions on Nikki Haley’s now dimming presidential prospects, the Koch-backed group Americans for Prosperity has begun running attack ads against swing-state Democratic Senators in hotly-contested 2024 races and linking them to “Bidenomics.”
Meanwhile, political campaigns spent $2.6 million on Google and YouTube ads last week. Here were the top ten spenders nationwide:
Rep. David Trone, a wealthy liquor magnate and a candidate for Maryland’s open U.S. Senate seat, has consistently spent a good amount on Google & YouTube for several months. He is currently running video ads touting his endorsement from House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries.
On Snapchat, political advertisers in the U.S. have spent $43,000 on ads year to date. Here are the top spenders:
…and lastly, here are the top spending political advertisers on X (formerly Twitter) in 2024:
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Your 2024 digital dispatch
FWIW, here’s how weekly digital ad spending (Facebook/Instagram, Google/YouTube) compares between the Trump and Biden campaigns, as well as their allied Super PACs year-to-date:
For the second week in a row, the Biden campaign spent nearly $1,000,000 on digital advertising. While the majority of the campaign’s digital spending was on fundraising ads on Facebook, we found his team has started running a handful of ads specifically targeting South Carolina ahead of next Saturday’s presidential primary:
From around the internet:
Robocalls using a fake version of President Biden’s voice targeted voters in New Hampshire ahead of Tuesday’s primary, telling them to stay home and not vote. Biden ended up sweeping the Democratic primary, despite not even being on the ballot.
Ron DeSantis ended his presidential campaign last Sunday. From the start, the thing was a disaster. Last year, we wrote about his failure to launch and how his campaign staff prioritized sh*tposting on Twitter over reaching voters.
Josh Green, a longtime FWIW reader and journalist for Bloomberg has a new book out about the rise of economic populism in the Democratic Party. I started reading Rebels while on vacation last week and highly recommend it.
Elder millennials, rejoice! Jon Stewart is returning to The Daily Show. Will his style of snarky, direct-to-camera commentary resonate in the era of TikTok and vertical video?
Another new report shows that Gen Z is continuing to get their breaking news primarily through TikTok.
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The online audience wars
Both Biden and Trump benefit from massive online audiences that they have built up over many years on sites like Facebook, Instagram, X, and others. During Trump’s initial election in 2016 and throughout his presidency, his team built a rabid army of followers on social media who were eager to engage with red-meat, MAGA content. Biden, on the other hand, benefits from his long career in politics and previous Vice Presidential stints under Barack Obama.
On top of that, Team Biden benefits from a sort of power of digital incumbency - controlling White House official accounts that, while not overtly political, can churn out pro-Biden policy content every day.
We calculated the owned social audience of the various accounts run by the Trump and Biden campaigns, as well as of Biden’s White House team, across Facebook, X (Twitter), Instagram, YouTube, Threads, Truth Social, and Rumble. Here’s what we found:
According to our estimates, the Biden campaign and the White House have over 248 million total followers or subscribers across their online accounts. Meanwhile, the Trump campaign possesses around 165 million.
There are a few notable dynamics at play with how the campaigns are engaging their audiences. For example, on Facebook, despite posting twice as much content, Joe Biden’s main page receives less than half as much engagement (likes, comments, shares) as posts from Donald Trump’s main page. Meanwhile, on Twitter (X), despite having a massive audience of nearly 90 million followers, Trump does not regularly post. Instead, he’s active on Truth Social, where he receives far less engagement.
In 2024, owned accounts on these social platforms still matter for campaigns to distribute their own content and messaging far and wide. However, the internet is changing, and owned social strategy is no longer the whole ballgame. As I’ve written about at length, the Biden campaign and White House are eager to reach beyond their own audiences and partner with creators, podcasters, YouTubers, and celebs to get their message out in less conventional ways.
One more thing: “The President just chillin in my crib”
President Biden was campaigning in North Carolina last week and made a campaign stop at the home of a family who benefitted from student loan forgiveness. The kids then proceeded to put it on TikTok, where it received at least 3 million views.
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Political strategists were quick to praise the authentic, organic content as key to humanizing Biden in a tough election year. “The dopest Biden video I’ve ever seen” tweeted one, and another called it “the best Biden adjacent content I’ve seen in months.”
That’s it for FWIW this week! This email was sent to 18,423 readers. Help us reach more subscribers by forwarding this week’s issue to your colleagues!