25 Oct

You shall know them by their #s: the last anxieties of the candidates

Two days before the elections, these are the messages the candidates want to convey - with urgency, desperation or confidence - through the hashtags they use and the trends they promote

Por Carlos Cortés, José Luis Peñarredonda, Esteban Villa-Turek and Carolina Santana

Updated 28 de January, 2020 at 4:08 pm

The last week before the elections is full of restrictions on publicity and public events. In this context, the use of social networks becomes key. The Linterna Verde analyzed the final stage of the campaigns on Twitter to see which messages they want to convey – with urgency, desperation or confidence – through the hashtags they use and the trends they promote.

The hashtags reveal who needs to close the gap, who is desperate to convince undecided voters, and even those who already feel they have the rope around their necks. 

In this analysis, we focused on the activity of the accounts of the mayoral candidates in Bogotá, Medellin, Barranquilla and Cali in the past seven days, and zoomed in on their top 10 hashtags. Considering that a hashtag has an average of 11 characters, and that community managers and strategists spend a lot of time defining them, we believe they may be understood as very condensed messages in the campaigns. The results reflect four big anxieties and those who are suffering from them.

1: Those who need to maintain their advantage 

A lot can happen in the next 48 hours, and the favorites have the most to lose. The hashtags used by Alfredo Ramos, the candidate for the Democractic Center in Medellin, by Jorge Iván Ospina in Cali, and by Jaime Pumarejo in Barranquilla (who is number one in the polls and the political “son” of the Char clan) demonstrate their obsession with maintaining the lead. For that reason, some of Ramos’ main hashtags are #VamosPorMás (let’s go for more) and #MedellínAdelante (Medellin forward), Ospina’s main hashtag is #EnCaliOspinaGana (Ospina wins in Cali), and Pumarejo promotes the hashtag #BarranquillaImparable (unstobable Barranquila) in his tweets.

*Word cloud of @AlfredoRamosM’s activity in the past 7 days

2: Those who are climbing and need every vote

There are also patterns in the hashtags promoted by those coming second in the polls. In “votofinish” campaigns, such as the ones in these four cities, it is essential that each candidate makes is clear that they have recently closed the gap and are going to win. That is the message that Claudia López is conveying through the hashtag #MeDecidiPorClaudia (I have chosen Claudia). The candidate is also using #MockusVotaClaudia (Mockus votes for Claudia) as a potential strategy to convince undecided voters. 

Roberto Ortíz, in Cali, also wants to convey a similar feeling of confidence due to closing the gap. In the word cloud, we can see the hashtag #FirmesConCali (strong with Cali), which he is using to demonstrate that he is confident he can achieve victory.

*Word cloud of @robertoortizu’s activity in the past 7 days

Meanwhile, Daniel Quintero, in Medellin, considers this an important final stage in which every second counts, using hashtags such as #33horas (33 hours) and # 42HorasPorMedellín (42 hours for Medellin).

3: Those who are trying to move the electoral machine

It seems that resorting to the Liberal Party’s red color or other partisan brands has lost its sex appeal. In this campaign, in addition to the symbolism around the Galán family and the pride some candidates have due to their closeness with former president Uribe, the “independent” hashtag the new trend. In this context, Hollman Morris’s attempt to promote a hashtag that clearly appeals to the political structure of Colombia Humana is remarkable: #lacolombiahumanaseragobierno (the Colombia Humana will be the government), which was actually the most frequent hashtag in his tweets in the past seven days.


* Top 10 hashtags of @HOLLMANMORRIS’s activity in the past 7 days

4: Those who are fighting against the useful vote

After all the polls were published and the cards were laid on the table, the data showed that some candidates and drowning in their Twitter accounts, trying to get citizens to vote based on their beliefs and not only based on the indicators. We found three accounts showing this anxiety in their most frequent hashtags. 

The candidate Miguel Uribe, who is in third place according to most polls in Bogotá, has three hashtags among the top 10 reinforcing this message. 


In Medellin and in Barranquilla, there are also “fierce” campaigns trying to prevent electors who decide to vote based on the indicators on the last minute not to “waste their votes”.  For that purpose, they resort to messages supporting free and clean votes with no interference from the electoral machine – a message that has been very present in the case of the Aida Merlano scandal in Costa Atlantica. 

There are two cases: Diógenes Rosero, mayoral candidate for the Alianza Verde, is resorting mostly to #votalibrevotaverde (vote free, vote green). Juan David Valderrama, an independent mayoral candidate for Medellín, retweeted the campaign #novotaríapor (I would not vote for) on October 24 as a last minute call to consciousness for citizens not to be swayed by the political machine. 

Tweet: We are at the Botanic Garden preparing for the campaign closing in the Rebolo district. Do not miss this one (bicycle emojis) for a #BarranquillaSinMedo (Barranquilla without fear) #barranquillaSinRoscas (Barranquilla without schemes) and a #barranquillamáseducada (Barranquilla with more education) remember #VotaLibreVotaVerde 

* The Digital Democracy Room is a project of FGV DAPP in Brazil in partnership with Chequeado, Linterna Verde and Ojo Público. It’s goal is to monitor and analyze the digital conversations regarding the electoral context.

The analysis is available the website of Linterna Verde here.