While GOP Presidential Candidate Donald Trump was addressing more than 2,000 people at a hangar at the Central Illinois Regional Airport, a small group of Illinois State University faculty and students were watching the Trump rally go viral.
ISU's School of Communication's Social Media Analytics and Command Center (SMACC) monitors social media using tools such as Nuvi - a key word search tool, and Geofeedia -- which helps to place a post geographically. Those tools captured nearly 9,000 posts on Twitter, Instagram, blogs and to a lesser degree Facebook related to the Trump rally in Bloomington. Many of those 9,000 social media users have millions following their individual accounts.
"At yesterday's event, we have an initial audience of 18-million -- just related to the Trump event," said Nate Carpenter, the Assistant Director of Convergent Media in the School of Communication. "And then we see what we call 'spread,' or this notion of viral activity; people sharing things beyond the initial posting. So we saw an additional 17-million users. So all together we can say 35-million people were seeing something in the social web about this Trump rally in Bloomington."
While on GLT's Sound Ideas, Carpenter told Mike McCurdy he saw far more Trump supporters and media covering the events than posts from protesters.
"At last count, I think we identified 240-250 posts that were covering protesters themselves, either protesters posting their own images or people posting about them," said Carpenter. "And we captured close to 9,000 posts that contained those key words 'Bloomington' and 'Trump' and 'Trump Rally' and the vast majority were those retweeting what Trump was saying and retweeting other news sources. We can assume supporters or people clued in and curious about what they were seeing. Very minimal protest activity at this event in terms of social media coverage."
A social media peak during the event was when Trump called a supporter on stage wearing a shirt that said "Legal Immigrant for Trump." Several news services picked up on that immediately according to Carpenter and used screen shots off YouTube.
"When we looked at the overall data that was certainly one of the most shared posts," said Carpenter. "It was being shared by Trump supporters to say we're not all about the hate. We are actually inclusive."
Near the end of the rally, there were some "feel good" tweets and posts about cheers erupting after Trump finished speaking and shares of a Bloomington Police Department post about the event not generating any arrests.
"Best we can tell that (the Tweet about the cheering) got out to about 100,000 people," said Carpenter.