Ocasio-Cortez is the Most Influential Politician on Instagram

She gives PM Lee Hsien Loong a run for his money

Who is the Cristiano Ronaldo of the politics world? My first guess was (embarrassingly) Justin Trudeau, but it is actually 29-year old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a new member of the U.S. House of Representatives from New York’s 14th District (which includes The Bronx and north-central Queens). Ocasio-Cortez assumed her position on January 3rd 2019, and has since become one of the most followed politicians on Instagram, with 2.7M followers in a span of just few months. That is roughly the size of the entire state of Qatar.

Cristiano Ronaldo and Kylie Jenner are indisputably insta-famous, with their followers in the 100-million range. In addition to the above, Cristiano is also the Most-Followed person on Instagram while Kylie has the Most-Liked Instagram post and video.

I compared Ocasio-Cortez’s performance to the ones of Cristiano and Kylie, in proportion to their related followings, and was surprised to see how strong Ocasio-Cortez’s engagement is with her audience

Let’s crunch some numbers by comparing the most liked videos of these 3 influencers.
Ronaldo’s most liked video on Instagram has a 5% Engagement Rate and a 21% View Rate.

View this post on Instagram

Turim 💪👌

A post shared by Cristiano Ronaldo (@cristiano) on

This is Cristiano’s Most-Liked video.

While Jenner’s most liked video on Instagram has a 7% Engagement Rate and a 77% View Rate.

This is Kylie Jenner’s Most-Liked video and the Most-Liked video on Instagram.

Now get this: Ocasio, who’s only risen to the ranks within the last few months, has a 32% Engagement Rate on her most liked video and a whopping 155% View Rate with over 4.2 million views. That’s 4 times her following.
She beats Ronaldo and Jenner at their social media game. Like a boss.

Too many numbers? Here’s an info-graphic.

Far more impressive than Ocasio’s status as the Queen of Engagement Rate is, of course, her drive and ambition. Born and raised in The Bronx, which is the northernmost, and highly gentrified area of New York City, Ocasio is almost entirely self-made. She defeated the ten-term incumbent Congressman Joe Crawley to become the youngest woman in history to ever serve in the U.S. Congress. Not to mention she is also Puerto Rican: an unlikely but compelling combination in the wake of the Trump administration.

What I am particularly interested in is the intersection between Ocasio’s social media ethic and her political clout (or her social media clout and political ethic, however you want to see it).

Ocasio is a millennial.

A millennial in government! Did we ever think the day would come? Word has it that Ocasio has more followers on Twitter than the entire freshman Democratic House combined: all 60 of them. Take a look at this chart, which reflects the growth of her Instagram followers just before her entrance into office till now. This increase is colossal. It seems like with young members, the ability to see and connect with a politician online is more important than supposed seniority. We want to know who we’re voting for. 

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While majority of Ocasio’s followers are unsurprisingly US-based, she also has an incredible global reach, including countries like Canada (OK, admittedly also unsurprising since they share a border), the UK, Australia, Spain, France, Italy, India, Mexico and more.

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The little coloured slices in this pie chart show us how many people around the world are looking at and listening to Ocasio, just via Instagram. Imagine. She is connecting with and speaking to more than 200K people in India, another 200K in Spain, and another 300K in France; they might be thousands of KM away from U.S. politics but nevertheless, they are interested in her. And she keeps things interesting.

How do we know this?

The engagement rate on Ocasio’s Instagram is notably high. Her account experienced an impressive peak in engagement after she won the Democratic Party election, and the engagement rate remained high at 15% which is more than 3 times higher than the average engagement rate for people with more than 1M followers. Plus, her posts get almost as many likes as she has followers.

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Would you look at that. A bold arc of worldwide curiosity. The rapid growth in her followers is possibly also much owing to the fact that she fits right in the age group of individuals on Instagram. Majority of her followers are female and between the ages of 25-35, much like Ocasio herself. And can we talk about the video that went viral? Her response to the Republican attempt at stirring controversy was pure genius and got 200% more views than her average post.

But we can’t look at Ocasio’s social media success without also looking at the King of Tweets, the one Donald Trump, POTUS. Trump is infamous for his controversial tweets, often having to delete multiple of them like a teenager the morning after a tantrum. But how is he faring on Instagram? We can’t deny that Trump is a fascinating figure. With a total of 12.2M followers, it’s clear that whether you love him or hate him, you want to know what he is up to.

Here is a chart reflecting Trump’s follower growth since his election as President (November 2016) till today.

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It has more or less increased quite steadily over the last 2 years, with initial peaks at the beginning of his presidency. Unsurprising: we wanted to see the image equivalent of covfefe. The engagement on his posts, however, tells a different story.

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In this last year alone, the engagement rate has been faring at around 2%, as evident from the graph, which is almost 8 times less than Ocasio’s. It picked up at the end of last year, presumably because of Ocasio’s election (though debatable), when people regained interest in the President’s sentiments. But it wasn’t too long after Trump’s election that people began to disengage. Take a look at the graph below, which reflects the engagement on Trump’s Instagram within the first 5 months of his time in office.

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Typical. A controversial figure piques public interest at the start but dwindles with enough time due to an inability to capture and hold attention. Does Ocasio’s social media fame risk suffering a similar fate? Hard to tell but we will keep an eye on the statistics.

Another thing worth noting is that slightly more than half of Trump’s followers are female. This is a lot, considering the kinds of sentiments he has shared about women. Majority of his followers are also within the 25-35 age group, which puts him in the same boat as Ocasio, and our next Trump of interest: Ivanka.

Advisor to POTUS and vocal alongside Ocasio is Ivanka Trump, a woman that needs no introduction. The first daughter is also interesting to observe because she and Ocasio share a common follower demographic (as to the follower-base, that remains uncertain). Why is Ocasio more popular on social media than Ivanka has ever been? Popularity isn’t just a game of numbers. While Ivanka has twice the number of followers as Ocasio, Ivanka’s engagement rate is sporadic and often very, very low. She ranks at about 2%, which is much lower than the average engagement rate for a follower of her stature.

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People follow her page, but they are simply not engaging with her content. It is hard to tell exactly why, but a quick look at both their Instagram posts might give us a clue.

Ocasio’s Instagram account is replete with diversity: men, women, children, and a wide spectrum of colour. Her feed factors the future. She engages with the people we want to see rising to ranks of power: women of colour, people from less-than-privileged backgrounds, the underdogs.

Ivanka’s account seems to be a moodboard of things the world is tired of. White men in power, nepotism, round-table echo chambers. While this mode of government worked for a long time, the introduction of Ocasio on the scene gives people a palpable alternative.

Ocasio dares to be different, and that is worth all the clicks, views, and attention in the world.



Written by Deesha Menon

Influencer Marketing at Popular Chips. Interested in social issues, narratives, books, social media, and machine learning.

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