Donald Trump’s Favourite Instagram Filter is Lo-Fi

By Katie Meyer

When you think of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, Instagram might not leap to mind. The platform is younger than Twitter or Facebook — it’s more often associated with #wokeuplikethis than #vote2016. But on Instagram, Donald Trump is winning with a massive and highly engaged following.

With 902,000 followers, Trump is ahead of Hillary (721k) and Bernie (623k). Do Instagram’s demographics match Trump’s? According to a Pew study, college graduates are the least likely to use Instagram. In 2014, just 24% of Americans with some college education had Instagram accounts; they were more likely to use Twitter (30%) or Facebook (70%).

Instagrammers are young. And they love Donald Trump. Or do they just love following him?

The Filter King

Bernie Sanders uses a wider variety of filters than any other candidate. Aside from their posts with no filter (normal), the three candidates have very different filter preferences — and Bernie is the most experimental.

Crowdbabble’s Instagram analytics engine shows that since January 1 2015, Bernie has tried 13 filters.

The Sanders campaign’s favourite Instagram filter? As shown above, it’s Clarendon, the that filter pumps up saturation and infuses black hues with blues. Lark and Nashville are are tied for second.

But Clarendon isn’t necessarily Bernie’s holy grail on the platform. Bernie’s followers engage the most when he filters his Instagram photos with Juno, Perpetua, or Clarendon; he only uses one of them regularly. The mismatch is likely costing Bernie some engagement, though his growth rate on the platform is healthy.

Bernie Sanders’ top Instagram in January was a photo taken at a rally in Alabama.

Like Hillary and Trump’s Instagrams, the photo became a forum for debate — users discussed the merits of socialism and whether or not Bernie is a in fact a Clarendon communist.

#NoFilter Hillary

The Clinton campaign has shifted its filter strategy radically in 2016. Since December, Hillary #wokeuplikethis Clinton hasn’t used any filters on her Instagram uploads. In 2015, she used them sparingly.

Below, a Crowdbabble graph showing Hillary’s most used filters in 2015. When she used filters, Mayfair was her favourite.

Over the past six weeks, as found in Crowdbabble, Hillary hasn’t filtered any of her photos. Below, the most boring graph ever made, showing Hillary’s filter usage on Instagram from December 1 2015 onward:

Hillary’s top 2016 post thus far was a message to President Obama after his final state of the union, with 46,243 likes and 2,063 comments.

The vitriol aimed at Hillary on Instagram is unique among the candidates: the comments on Sanders’ and Trumps’ top posts did not focus on their potential smells (?!) or ages (at 68, Hillary is actually the youngest of the three.)

Despite the bitter comments, for Hillary, the prize seems near. Going #nofilter is a bold move, but it might pay off.

Dreamy, Blurry Trump

When he isn’t going #nofilter, Donald Trump’s favourite filter on Instagram is Lo-Fi. Lo-fi adds flattering lighting to photos: in cinematic terms, it’s like smearing the lens with vaseline and turning the key light up. Its name, low fidelity, stems from its ability to erase detail. Ryan Gosling illustrates the filter’s effects below:

Like Hillary, most of Trump’s photos are unfiltered and he experiments with a smaller range of filters when he does use them. Below, Trump’s Instagram filters from January 1 2015 onward:

Trump (or more likely, his social media team) apply Lo-Fi the most, followed by Juno. Juno also brightens and softens photos. In one of his most engaging Lo Fi posts, pictured below, his private jet is practically glowing.

The dreamy, blurry effect seems to be working for Trump, who has attracted a global audience on the platform as the most American American to ever American. As an international media sensation, Donald Trump attracts more likes, comments, and followers than his competitors on Instagram.

Trump’s Instagram presence is a magnet for heated debate between conservatives and liberals. His top post for January was a video that attracted more than 46,000 comments.

Much of the engagement that Donald Trump attracts on the platform is negative. As with his top post in 2016, the bulk of engagement on his top post of all time — a photo of a soldier’s casket returning home — are comments (127,548 in that case).

Controversy around his campaign may have pushed Donald Trump into the lead on Instagram, where he is ahead of Hillary and Bernie in both followers and engagement. Since January 1, Trump’s Instagram account has enjoyed a 583.5% engagement rate (the percentage of his followers that like or engage with his posts). At more than 100%, Trump’s his photos are liked and commented multiple times by his own followers and also by users who don’t follow him.

Hillary, with a 94% engagement rate, and Bernie, with 107%, have started 2016 well behind Trump on Instagram.

Win on Instagram, Win the Nomination?

Hillary seems to have the best chance of overtaking Trump on the social platform, with less ground to make up. Her growth rate on the platform is lower than average this week at about 1,414 new followers per day, having sunken slightly since the January 17 debate. Since January 17, Bernie has gained about 3,243 new followers per day.

Donald Trump — thanks to his dreamy, blurry posts? — is on track to keep his lead on the platform. Since January 17, Trump has gained 30,122 followers on Instagram, an average of 3,848 per day. At that rate, neither Bernie nor Hillary will catch up. Trump will likely break the 1 million mark on Instagram by February 20.

Will Trump’s followers vote the same way they click? Or is Donald Trump just a hilarious one-man show Instagram users can’t stop watching? With primaries already underway, we’ll soon find out.

All data visualizations were made in Crowdbabble. This story is part of a series on social media and the Presidential election.