How To Win At Social Media, The Trump Way

By blowing up Twitter with controversial comments and posting 15-second political videos on Instagram, Donald Trump is proving to be a master manipulator who understands social media more than any other presidential candidate, according to experts on politics and social media.

"Donald Trump would not be where he is today without the amplification of social media," said Mindy Finn, who has worked for President George W. Bush, 2012 candidate Mitt Romney, Google and Twitter. Donald Trump is 'essentially trolling the Republican Party'.

"Facebook has the widest reach by far but Trump has understood that you go to Twitter, erupt a controversy, say something outrageous to drive controversy, and then you dominate the news cycle for 24 hours."

A staffer to former Republican candidate Mitt Romney revealed 22 people had to approve one tweet during the 2012 presidential race, underlining the caution politicians demonstrated with social media engagement.

Trump, by contrast, is boosting his following by writing tweets himself — locked caps and spelling errors included.

"It is incredible to see a leading candidate like Trump tweeting personally," Finn told Fairfax Media. "He understood that carefully scripted soundbites on Twitter weren't going to get the attention needed to dominate."

Trump's social media strategy is run by 29-year-old Justin McConney, son of 28-year Trump Organization veteran vice-president Jeffrey McConney. Justin McConney has overseen Trump's Twitter following leap from 300,000 followers in 2011 to over 5.5 million today.

"It should not be a surprise that Donald Trump is this great phenomenon," added Finn. "He has written books about how to manipulate the media and has a greater understanding of the media than any other candidate."

Joe Rospars, founder and CEO of Blue State Digital, a leading political digital media agency, suggested Trump's tweets were as calculated as all other candidates and not as authentic as many supporters believe.

"I don't think Trump is doing authenticity," said Rospars, who was chief digital strategist for Obama for America during the 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns.

"Contrast Trump with super-calculated Jeb Bush. Trump is calculated too but on the celebrity, tabloid, map. He is doing something different but I wouldn't call it authentic."

Rospars said for some 2016 voters, social media is their sole source of information about candidates — a challenge for candidates wanting to appear authentic.

"Some candidates are really engaged — or disengaged — on social media," said Rospars. "You can see some who don't have anything to say or too much to say. And you can see people who behave like a troll. Donald Trump's campaign is essentially trolling the Republican Party."

In 2008 and 2012 Barack Obama used social media to win support and solicit donations to raise record amounts of campaign money from grassroots supporters — a strategy repeated by 2016 Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders.

As Mitt Romney demonstrated, other candidates remain cautious about the role of social media in a political race.

"A campaign is about controlling the message and creating a particular brand that is managed and scripted," said Finn.

"A medium like social media thrives on authenticity, humour, and controversy, and that is uncomfortable for political campaigns."

In Australia, voters waiting for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten to fire up a tweetstorm may be out of luck, according to Philip Dalidakis, the Victorian government's Minister for Small Business, Innovation and Trade and a Twitter advocate.

"While Australians are regarded as one of the world's best technological early adopters, we have been largely conservative in using that technology publicly and certainly professionally," he said.

Dalidakis, who followed President Obama's recent State of the Union address in Washington DC on Twitter, said younger politicians were slowly changing the culture in Australian politics.

"Twitter allows for an immediacy that other older forms of communication do not," he said. "It's a real-time conversation that others can see and participate in as they see fit."

This article originally appeared in Digital Life, The Sydney Morning Herald's home for everything technology. Follow Digital Life on Facebook and Twitter.


    He also posted that his daughter is hot and he would date her if she wasn't his daughter... 0_o

    My God, if this fool gets the Presidency it would be the first time I would actually condone an assassination. Pleeeese Merica, don't let this fool win.

    Last edited 30/01/16 3:31 pm

      What's an assination? Something to do with sodomy?

        If he wins, the whole world may as well bend over. Guess who won't though? Russia and China. Lot's of shits and giggles there huh.

      I think they just like the way he talks - but don't listen to what he actually says. It was quite scary when we were in Chicago in September - we asked one of our taxi drivers about him, and he said "I'll vote for him if he wins the primary, I like that he says what's on his mind." All I could think of was "so do mentally ill people when they shout at sewer grates in the street,, but we lock those ones up, not make them president..."

    Donald Trump is proving to be a master manipulator who understands social media more than any other presidential candidateHe's not a master of anything, he has advisors for that. Basically, he just panders to the lowest common denominator. Which, in America, is apparently very low.

    Last edited 31/01/16 11:30 am

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