Trump’s Twitter Tricks

Last March I wrote a blog entitled, “PR Tips from The Donald.” At the time, no one really believed Donald Trump would have the staying power to win the Republican nomination, much less the presidency. Obviously, he proved us wrong.

President-elect Trump continues to be a PR machine and shows no sign of slowing down on his use of social media to spread his message of the hour. He’s deftly created the President Trump Brand via social media, while spending far less than his competitors for paid media opportunities. In fact, Trump claims his effective use of social media helped him win the election. Trump has discovered that social media is the way people – especially Millennials – communicate and receive information. He’s using it to his advantage, much in the same way FDR did with his fireside radio chats.

Trump seems to enjoy creating his own rules and doesn’t mind being provocative and pushing the envelope. His Twitter use in particular is like nothing we’ve seen from any world leader, which is one reason it fascinates so many of us. Trump loves to Tweet and he seems to believe it’s the most convenient and effective way to let the world know what’s on his mind. It’s a hard point to argue when you compare the time it takes to send a 140-character Tweet versus the time and logistics required for a press conference or extensive TV interview.

Here are some fun facts about Trump’s use of Twitter. Since establishing @RealDonaldTrump in March, 2009, Trump has sent 34.1K tweets and amassed 16.5 million followers – and continues to add more than 30,000 new followers every day. Interestingly he only follows 40 accounts, 16 of which are either family members or represent a Trump property or company. The rest of the people or companies he follows are primarily with the conservative media or affiliated with the Trump campaign. Curiously – at least to me – Trump also follows golfer Gary Player.

While Trump does enjoy making up his own social media rules, some of his Twitter practices are worth imitating if you’re interested in building your own Twitter following, creating support for a particular issue, or reinforcing a persona.

For example:

Regular tweeting. Trump tweets daily – and often dozens of times in a single day.

Retweeting of relevant content. Trump retweets content he deems relevant and/or of interest to his followers, plus engages in conversations with both his fans and his critics. He also quotes other Tweets (rather than simply retweet) and adds in his personal commentary. Having one’s tweet amplified by another Tweeter – especially someone with Trump’s reach – is flattering, as this recent Saturday Night Live spoof suggests; it also implies the Tweeter (Trump) is paying attention to what other people are saying. It also benefits Trump because it increases the number of times his @RealDonaldTrump shows up in different Twitter feeds.

Regular use of hashtags. Trump created his own communities using hashtags, such as #MakeAmericaGreatAgain. His regular use of hashtags helps other Twitter users find his tweets on specific topics, even if they don’t follow @RealDonaldTrump.

Strong and consistent messaging. Trump’s consistently clear and concise messages has allowed him to build a persona that resonates with his target audience. His tweets leave little question as to his position, and when he finds a message that has legs, he will tweet the same core message multiple times to reinforce his point.

Tags others. When Trump wants to call out another Twitter user, he includes that person’s Twitter handle to ensure they notice and possibly engage him.

Original, informative and inspiring messages. Obviously, Trump’s messages aren’t “inspiring” to everyone, but they do rally his followers. His tweets are certainly unique when compared to others in the political arena, and leave little uncertainty about his position on different topics.

What I find to be the most genius aspect of Trump’s tweeting is how he has used it to establish what the public is talking about on any given day. Case in point: Trump recently started a (controversial) conversation about flag burning and how flag burners should be arrested or even lose their citizenship. Not surprisingly, the statement ignited heated conversations and drew critics from both the left and the right. Meanwhile, consider all the topics that the public – and the media – were not talking about: possible cabinet picks that were controversial; potential conflicts of interest between his business holdings and status as the country’s soon-to-be president; or even his wife’s decision not to immediately move into the White House following the inauguration. By starting a conversation as controversial as flag burning, and by taking such an audacious stand, he effectively snuffed out any other conversations – at least for one 24-hour news cycle.

The media is still trying to figure out if Trump’s every Tweet is newsworthy and deserving of coverage. Isn’t that argument in and of itself proof that Trump’s Twitter tricks are working and keeping the public talking about him and his every 140-character utterance?

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