From The Hybrid Media system pg 254-255. It’s not about followers, as much as the capacity to leverage a following into online events which invite media coverage which would otherwise be restricted to those with greater political capital. He notes how this is compounded by the tendency for journalists to use social media influence as a proxy for the levels of interest a candidate is generating, a process which we saw become a self-fulfilling prophecy in Trump’s case:
What emerges is a stark picture of Trump’s engagement advantage. From January 1, 2016, to November 6, 2016, on Facebook, Trump’s posts racked up a total of 208.1 million likes, comments, and shares (Meyer, 2016). In contrast, Clinton’s gathered only 72 million. During the same period on Instagram, Trump’s posts received 53 million likes and comments, while Clinton’s received 31 million. On Twitter, the platform to which journalists flock for sourcing their stories, the engagement gap was larger still: Trump’s 89.5 million likes and retweets dwarfed Clinton’s 41.6 million.