Abstract: Social media has become a dominant force in American political life, from Twitter and Facebook to newer rivals like Instagram and TikTok. As American elections have also grown increasingly expensive, campaigns have sought to capitalize on social media success through campaign donations. The most successful social media posts can garner thousands of likes and millions of views focusing attention on the candidate and presenting a fundraising opportunity. In this study, I examine the impact of viral posts (those receiving more than 5,000 likes or those in the top 1% of likes) on the number and amount of campaign donations a candidate receives on the date of the post. Combining social media data from Facebook and campaign finance donations during the 2018 and 2020 House of Representatives elections, I find that viral posts can dramatically increase a candidate’s fundraising on those dates. This finding suggests that candidates can increase their fundraising through increased social media success.
Keywords: campaign finance; campaign fundraising; congress; elections; political campaigns; social media; US elections; viral posts