Audience members look up at the large video screen hanging above the first prime-time Republican presidential debate hosted by FOX News and Facebook at the Quicken Loans Arena on Aug. 6, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio.
Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty

Who won GOP Debate night on social media? It depends.


Throughout the first Republican presidential primary debate, candidates on both sides of the aisle took to social media to promote their campaigns and take shots at their opponents. Now that the dust has settled, who won the social media battle for attention and clicks?

Well, that depends on how you look at it. Numerous different metrics can be used to measure social media success – and depending on which metrics you look at, the social media winner of debate night is either Donald Trump, neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson, or Democrat Bernie Sanders

In terms of sheer volume of mentions on social networks, Donald Trump reigned supreme. A Twitter spokesperson reported that of all the conversation about the debate on Twitter on Thursday night, Trump mentions constituted 30.38%. In other words, Trump was name-checked more than any other candidate on Twitter on Thursday night.

Facebook reported similar trends as well; a spokesperson for the social media site confirmed that Trump was also the most talked-about candidate on their platform during the debate.

However, according to an analysis from social media analytics company Crowdtangle, Dr. Carson was the big winner of the night. Carson experienced the biggest growth on his personal social accounts of any of the candidates on debate night – he increased his Facebook fans by 12% (215,000 new Likes), increased his Twitter following by 10% (41,000 new followers), and grew his Instagram following by 37% (approximately 7,000 new followers).

Crowdtangle’s analysis also found that Carson had the two most successful candidate Facebook posts of the evening, with one pre-debate post getting over 300,000 likes and 18,000 shares, and a second post after the debate also garnering over 300,000 likes and over 35,000 shares.

But the Republican candidates weren’t the only ones prolifically posting to social media on Thursday night – Democrats got in on the action too, using it as an opportunity to criticize their Republican rivals. 

On Twitter, Sen. Bernie Sanders live-tweeted the debate, and one of his final tweets at the end of the debate became the most retweeted tweet of the night. In the tweet, Sanders proclaimed: “It’s over. Not one word about economic inequality, climate change, Citizens United or student debt. That’s why the Rs are so out of touch.” That message was retweeted over 25,000 times, which a Twitter spokesperson confirmed was the most retweeted debate-related message of the night.