Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign changed the way the President of the United States is elected. Social media is becoming as important as offline outreach — and on social platforms, voters can talk back.

The behaviour of candidates’ social media followings might be just as predictive as national polls. As journalist H. A. Goodman said last week, “Human beings, not summaries of landline telephone calls to four hundred people, decide the fate of elections.” With sample sizes in the millions, the real people interacting with candidates through Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook could predict who takes the oval office this November.

Crowdbabble is now tracking more than 100 metrics for the social accounts of six presidential candidates, Republican and Democrat. In this new series on the 2016 Presidential Election, we aim to answer the following questions: Who is winning the race online? Can social media predict the next President?

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The first post in this series examines Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton’s performance on social media after the January 17 televised debate. Katie Meyer will look at polling numbers before and after, and compare them to shifts in social media numbers.

Later this week, Bhavin Prajapati will analyze the impact of Sarah Palin’s endorsement on Donald Trump’s large online following.

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From now until November we’ll check in with case studies on the candidates, their strategies, and any correlations we find between their polling numbers and social media numbers. Do fans and followers click the same way they vote? Using Crowdbabble’s social analytics engine, we aim to find out.