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Presidential candidates and the art of the selfie

The selfie election

Dominick Reuter | Reuters

Gone are the days when voters want politicians to kiss their babies or sign an autograph. These days the majority hope to score a selfie with a presidential candidate. Dubbed by some as the "Selfie Election," the 2016 presidential race is being defined by a candidate's social media presence.

"The selfie is now the 11th amendment of the Bill of Rights," Jeb Bush said at a recent fundraiser. "It's inspired by our framers and founders, apparently. It is a requirement that you take one, and I do it with great joy in my heart."

Bush isn't the only candidate to jump on the selfie craze. The majority of the 2016 presidential candidates have posed for selfies throughout their campaigns.

By CNBC.com's Sarah Whitten
Posted Dec. 30, 2015

Jeb Bush

Lynne Sladky | AP

Want to take the perfect selfie? Jeb Bush has a few tips for you.

"Just for the record, young people do it better than older people," the Republican candidate and former governor of Florida said at a recent fundraiser, holding his arm out to demonstrate the proper technique. "It's cooler to do it diagonally rather than straight up, remember that, and it's better to do it higher than lower, because you look skinnier."

Bush, who has more than 408,000 followers on Twitter, has not always been social media savvy during his campaign — his attempt to revitalize his campaign in November with the new slogan "Jeb can fix it" was slammed by Twitter users — but his selfie game is strong.

Marco Rubio

Alan Diaz | AP

Marco Rubio's social media accounts focus largely on documenting the GOP candidate's day on the trail with behind-the-scenes photos and candid picutres.

The senator from Florida has more than 1.04 million followers on Twitter and 61,000 on Instagram.

Bernie Sanders

Scott Morgan | Reuters

Sen. Bernie Sanders' social media campaign has been overwhelmingly successful so far during his campaign for the Democratic nomination.

Perhaps the most successful aspect of his social campaign, and something that no other candidate has seen, is that his followers are the ones who are creating viral moments.

The hashtag #feelthebern, which was created by his Twitter followers, was used more than 401,000 times in October, averaging more than 13,000 mentions per day, according to Topsy.

"The slogan is an indication of the real grassroots energy that is behind our campaign, that you can't find behind any other campaign," said Kenneth Pennington, digital director for Sanders' campaign. "The slogan represents the energy that you are seeing, especially among millennial voters and younger social media supporters behind Sen. Sanders."

Sanders has more than 1.09 million followers on Twitter.

Hillary Clinton

Brent Lewis | The Denver Post | Getty Images

Of all the candidates, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have the strongest presence on Twitter. Clinton has more than 5 million followers on the social media site, just behind Trump, who has more than 5.4 million. All other candidates have around 1 million followers or fewer.

While some analysts suggest that the discrepancy between Clinton's and Trump's massive followings and other candidates can be attributed to how long they have been part of the social media platform, that notion does not hold true.

Democratic presidential hopeful Clinton was actually the last candidate to join Twitter. Her account was created in June 2013, while the majority of her rival politicians joined between 2008 and 2010 — likely a result of President Barack Obama's successful social media campaign during the 2008 election race.

Clinton was criticized in August after asking followers to tweet three emojis describing how they felt about their student debt. Users of the social media site responded negatively, accusing the former secretary of state of being out of touch and insensitive to the plight of millennials.

Donald Trump

John Tlumacki | The Boston Globe | Getty Images

Donald Trump is a prolific user of social media. He has come under fire multiple times in the last year for questionable and inflammatory posts.

In July, his campaign tweeted an image featuring Nazi uniforms. In August, one of his aides was fired over racially charged statements on Facebook. In October, Trump's social media team blamed an intern for retweeting a post that suggest Iowa voters had brain issues because of the corn that they eat.

And in November, the billionaire tweeted an image of a Nazi swastika next to a picture of Bush.

Trump has continued to have a strong presence on Twitter, using the platform to blast opponents and air grievances. In December the Republican presidential candidate called out Jeff Bezos on the social media site, accusing the Amazon CEO of using The Washington Post as a tax dodge to prop up the Internet retailer.

Carly Fiorina

Getty Images

Carly Fiorina has more than 643,000 followers on Twitter and is no stranger to the selfie.

The Republican presidential candidate and former CEO of Hewlett-Packard posted a photo to the social media platform in April of a group of students from a local Iowa high school with the caption "a selfie to make sure these Iowa City West High School students got their extra credit today. "

Ted Cruz

Richard Ellis | Getty Images

Ted Cruz has more than 684,000 followers on Twitter and has his own iOS app.

The political app allows voters to stay up to speed with the latest news about the GOP presidential candidate and Texas senator, and prompts them to post pro-Cruz messages to Facebook or Twitter, donate money to the campaign or sign up to volunteer.

Users are rewarded with "points" and "badges" and can compete for "Cruz Gear."

Martin O'Malley

Bill O'Leary | The Washington Post | Getty Images

Martin O'Malley's social media presence is scarce when compared to Trump, Sanders and Clinton. The Democratic presidential candidate and former governor of Maryland has only 119,000 followers on Twitter and barely 9,000 on Instagram.

Since October there have only been 145,000 tweets about O'Malley. By comparison, Sanders has seen more than 2.7 million mentions in that same time period. Clinton has garnered more than 3 million tweets and Trump has racked up 9.6 million.

Each mention on social media is, essentially, an advertisement for a campaign. However, it's not always an endorsement.

"Just because you have a follower doesn't mean you have a vote," Brigitte Majewski, research director at Forrester, told CNBC. "It just means that you have caught their ear at some point in the past. ... It's a good signal, but at the end of the day, a signal is not a vote."

Ben Carson

Getty Images

Ben Carson may pose for a selfie, but that doesn't mean he approves of them.

"The selfie stick ushers in a new, even worse and more dangerous era for the form," Carson wrote in an op-ed for The Washington Post back in April. "The stick doesn't just validate selfies by building a cottage industry around them. It also says, 'Snap them everywhere! ... Please stop.'"

Carson, a Republican presidential candidate who has more than 1.08 million followers and more than 5 million likes on Facebook, finds the practice to be narcissistic and dangerous.

"That's because, beyond the obvious narcissism of endlessly photographing oneself and blasting it over social networks for others to admire, selfies are dangerous — to animals, sports spectators, artwork and the rest of us."

Rand Paul

Richard Ellis | Getty Images

Perhaps Rand Paul's most infamous use of social media is his annual Festivus Twitter rant.

The GOP presidential candidate celebrates the comic "holiday," made famous by a 1997 episode of "Seinfeld," every year on Dec. 23 by launching the traditional "airing of grievances" on Twitter.

This year, he directed zingers at his presidential rivals, earning thousands of likes and retweets.

Paul has 754,000 followers on Twitter.

John Kasich

Getty Images

John Kasich may only have 148,000 followers on Twitter, but that doesn't mean he pulls punches when it comes to tweeting about his fellow candidates.

In November he took on Trump on Twitter after the billionaire called him out on the social media platform. The Republican presidential candidate and governor of Ohio blasted Trump over foreign policy statements, creating the hashtag #FlipFlopTrump.

Chris Christie

Paul Sancya | AP

Social media is a new form of personal marketing, allowing candidates to engage with followers, spark conversations and make emotional connections with voters.

"There is a strong parallel between a political candidate and a brand," Majewski said, explaining that platforms like Twitter can be used to bolster a candidates message to a new, younger audience.

Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie currently has 588,000 followers on Twitter