Why Twitter is not in the wrong hands of Donald Trump

The US president is an evil genius and there is a method in his madness on the social networking site.

 |  5-minute read |   10-08-2017
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Some time ago, I had written an article titled “Get Arvind Kejriwal off Twitter - he's losing it”. The Delhi chief minister indeed seemed to be getting out of hand with his borderline abuse and paranoia at that time.

Interestingly, Kejriwal has mellowed down quite a bit and as of the time of writing this article. Even though he is still promoting his pet causes and attacking his opponents, he is using far tamer tweets and loads of retweets to bolster his cases.

A lot of people feel the same about US president Donald Trump. His detractors are absolutely aghast at the way Trump uses Twitter and want him to get off it. Others feel he has debased the medium and his behaviour doesn’t fit a head of state.

But as with everything in his life, there is a certain method in Trump’s madness on Twitter. Trump is not an out of control loose cannon, but does everything thoughtfully and deliberately...

His core supporters still love his political incorrectness on Twitter.

Liberals, Democrat loyalists, mainstream media, Hollywood stars, celebrities… all hate Trump. They didn’t vote for him in 2016 and they won’t vote for him in 2020 no matter what. So why should he satisfy them?

Trump haters are the ones who keep claiming that Trump supporters and voters hate his tweeting and conduct polls to back that. The same polls that claimed that Trump had less than 1 per cent chance of winning the US presidential election!

One of the biggest agreed upon arguments (by both sides) is that most Trump voters were tired of political correctness and loved him being politically incorrect in his general attitude, speeches and attacks. So why should his Twitter account be any different?

Get on Twitter and check out his followers and you’ll find that they love his blunt style and direct attacks on Twitter. He had 10 million followers a year ago and had less than 25 million six months ago and now he has already crossed 35 million. So his Twitter account is really getting popular.

More important than that are his many interactions (retweets + replies + favourites). There are many celebrities who have millions of followers but get only hundreds of interactions. I just checked the first 10 tweets of @realDonaldTrump and all of them had about 1 lakh interactions! That kind of engagement is very rare for any Twitter handle and is a sign of great success. Why should he give that up?

The “modern day presidential” Trump.

People are used to heads of states and government officials having boring non-controversial Twitter accounts that speak nothing but officialise and that’s why Trump’s Twitter account sticks out like a sore thumb.

But why does it always have to be like that? Trump realised this and rebranded himself as not “presidential” but “modern day presidential” in his usage of social media. That caught on among his supporters much like his other brand names: Low Energy Jeb, Lying Ted and Crooked Hillary.

The tweet where he mentioned it got a whopping 78,000 comments (comments are far rarer than retweets on Twitter), 56,000 retweets and close to 2 lakh likes.

If you can’t convince them, distract them!

While the Republicans may be stumbling in the Congress and Senate, Trump is on an executive order signing frenzy. While the ones like the immigration ban get great media attention, the others not so much.

Among other things, he has eased data laws to not favour citizens, loosened gun control regulations and made it far easier for states to meddle with wildlife and waterways. If Trump signs an executive order and makes a controversial tweet at the same time, then you can be sure that the media will concentrate on the tweet.

The Russia conspiracy theory and his Twitter account are getting disproportionate coverage. Many times you find Trump simply playing the US media and making them run around in circles and his Twitter account plays a large part in that.

His Twitter handle saves him tonnes of energy.

The US media loved former president Barack Obama even when he waged war in the Middle East and proved to be a master snooper going after the likes of Chelsey (Bradley) Manning, Edward Snowden and Julian Assange.

Trump has no such luck and the media attacks him 24X7 no matter what he does and that’s why he has very less media interactions and the ones he has get really ugly. It would really sap Trump’s energy if he had to counter them day in and day out.

But now 140 characters is all it takes. It takes Trump minutes to attack and his detractors take days to defend it.

Attack China and move one…

Attack Republican leaders and move on…

Attack the media and move on…

Trump is confrontational by nature and would go crazy if he spent the whole day doing that and that’s where Twitter steps in. His every tweet gets a tremendous ROI and no true businessman will walk out of that equation.

What of the official account?

Have you checked out @narendramodi and @PMOIndia side by side? Many a times they look exactly the same, so what is the point in all this duplication? That way Trump has the @POTUS handle which is “official”.

So why duplicate that with @realDonaldTrump which he has made an extension of his personality? Trump is a master of branding and has seen great success with his real estate business, reality shows and his successful US presidential campaign.

Trump has used his Twitter account with great effectiveness and it is funny that his detractors are calling it a failure and asking him to get off Twitter and shut it down!

Also read: Social media will test Twitter-happy Trump in time of cyber war

Writer

Sunil Rajguru Sunil Rajguru @sunilrajguru

The author is a Bengaluru-based journalist and blogger.

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