The internet swallowed #pencefly but Joe Biden and Donald Trump's reactions were most telling
Fred Dimbleby is analysing the 2020 US election digital campaigns for our US election podcast Will Trump Win?
Here he explains why the viral moment of the battle between Donald Trump and Joe Biden's running mates shouldn't be dismissed as a fly-by incident.When a fly provides the most viral moment from a debate between two candidates who are a heartbeat away from becoming US president, it is never a great sign of the internet’s interest levels.
But during the VP debate, as a fly landed and positioned itself on Vice President Mike Pence’s head and sat there for a full two minutes, a moment of history was created and #pencefly was born.
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The topic received hundreds of thousands of tweets and, in probably the most speedily overdone joke in US debate history, already has more than 150 parody accounts.
But the fly episode actually gives an insight into the different strategies of the digital campaigns in the US.Team Biden milk the viral momentJoe Biden’s social media team were quick to seize on the moment and posted this picture of their presidential candidate with a fly swatter - an image you hope was taken on the night and not from their stock portfolio.
The tweet immediately seized the internet and claimed the narrative.
The Biden campaign have (of course!) already started advertising a Pence-themed flyswatter following up from their "will you shut up man" T-shirt in the first presidential debate.
However, the social media accounts of both Donald Trump and Mike Pence barely mentioned the incident.
In fact, despite having more than nine million followers, the Vice President's team didn’t tweet once during the debate.
In comparison, Kamala Harris's account posted around 20 times.
It underlines that Biden’s social team have been quicker, more confident and more creative with their online presence in the major moments of this campaign.
In the run-up to this debate, they were even live streaming an artist painting Kamala Harris to their followers on Twitch.
But flygate also points to the disparity of the campaign’s reach on the different social media platforms.Trump flies above the Biden attacks on Facebook
Joe Biden’s tweet about the fly, swatter and all, was retweeted more than 200,000 times and had more than double that number of likes.
It became one of the most interacted with posts from a political account of the night.
Yet, on Facebook, the fly had much less of an impact online and it shows that there really are two digital campaigns in this election.
Donald Trump dominated on Facebook, posting the second, third and fifth most interacted with posts in the United States in the last 24 hours.
Joe Biden’s flyswatter gag came in ninth in the US in terms of interactions.
And the Biden campaign seems to be aware of this difference in reach.
Biden posted almost continuously throughout the debate on Twitter, yet on Facebook, the aforementioned flyswatter post was one of only seven posts specifically about the debate.
So what now?While Biden has been able to seize the moments on some platforms, on Facebook Trump is still king.
The question is: which platform’s voters are more engaged and more willing to turn out in this most extraordinary of elections?
More US election analysis from Fred Dimbleby:
Why a weakened Donald Trump still holds the advantage in the digital battle
Why Donald Trump and Joe Biden are focused on one man (and it's not Donald)
Why a silent watermelon is making a bigger noise than Donald Trump and Joe Biden