Donald Trump snubbed an invitation to Thursday night’s Republican presidential debate. The unsociable act only won him more friends.
The real-estate magnate and tonsorial innovator grabbed 38 percent of debate mentions on Twitter, according to data from the social network. Even though he wasn’t on the stage in Des Moines, Iowa, the GOP front-runner grabbed more attention than any of the seven Republican hopefuls who attended the event.
Trump skipped out on the debate, the seventh in the run-up to the important Iowa Caucuses, because of an ongoing feud with Fox News, the host of the event. Instead, Trump held an impromptu benefit for veterans at the same time.
The benefit netted Trump even more social media attention. The Donald got more than 67,900 likes on a single Facebook post announcing his event had raised millions, according to Engagement Labs, a social media marketing company.
In total, Trump’s antisocial debate behavior won him nearly 31,000 new Twitter followers and more than 17,000 new Facebook followers, according to Engagement Labs.
Trump’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“Trump’s decision to boycott the debate could have possibly hurt him in the polls,” said Bryan Segal, CEO at Engagement Labs, in a release. “But on social media he managed to continue to create conversation around his campaign, attract followers and maintain dominance.”
We’ll find out on Monday whether Trump’s social media windfall, err, trumps his absence at the debate. What isn’t in question is the role of social media in this year’s presidential race. GOP and Democratic candidates have staffs dedicated to manning their Twitter and Facebook pages, while voters are increasingly turning to social media to cheer and jeer the candidates. Winning on social media could very well translate to winning at the ballot box.
That may have some of the other GOP hopefuls worried.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz generated the most buzz of candidates actually at the debate, according to an analysis by social-media marketer Spredfast. But that only accounted for around 11 percent of the total 1.3 million debate-related tweets during the event, according to Spredfast.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio claimed the top tweeted moment of the debate when he joked that Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders “would be a good president…of Sweden.” Rubio’s performance during the debate earned him 5,763 new Twitter followers, according to Engagement Labs, the most of any candidate present at the debate.
Trump wasn’t the only presidential candidate not in attendance to get a boost from the debate.
Sanders and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the two leading Democratic presidential candidates, both gained thousands of social media followers during the debate. In fact, Clinton was the fourth most-tweeted about presidential candidate during the GOP debate, according to Spredfast, above debate participants Ben Carson, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie and John Kasich.
CNET’s Terry Collins contributed to this report.