Donald Trump’s Social Media Prowess

Franklin D. Roosevelt was the first Radio President. His “fireside chats” (a series of 30 evening radio addresses given by U.S. President between 1933 and 1944) are now legendary. The social media generation of today might not appreciate how innovative that was but it was the first time in history that a chief executive used the most cutting-edge technology of the day to speak directly to millions  Fireside Chat John F. Kennedy was dubbed as the first Television President- he was the first president to effectively use the new medium of television to speak directly to the American people and capture their hearts. No other president had conducted live televised press conferences without delay or editing. “He was only outdone when an actual screen actor rose to the highest office in the land: Ronald Reagan. The Gipper’s televised charisma helped earn him the moniker “the Great Communicator.” (Jones, 2015) 

Typical American family gathered around TV, which displays John F. Kennedy's face, to watch debate between Kennedy & Richard Nixon during presidential election. (Photo by Time Life Pictures/National Archives/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

Typical American family gathered around TV, which displays John F. Kennedy’s face, to watch debate between Kennedy & Richard Nixon during presidential election. (Photo by Time Life Pictures/National Archives/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

Barack Obama emerged as the first Internet President; his 2008 and 2012 campaigns leveraged email, online video, big data and some social media tools to create a game-changing force.  Obama Can you see a pattern here; every political era seemed to have been shaped by the media environment of its time. The Presidents mentioned above had an innate understanding of that environment and the skill to act on it. Those who were able to realize the potential of the reigning medium of their era and be the first to master the tools were able to amass support from the American public. Ladies and Gentleman, as horrific (and maybe naïve on my part) as it sounds, Donald Trump might possibly be the first “social media” and “reality TV” president. Trump has more than 7.2 million Twitter followers and 6.6 million Facebook fans. He has a presence across YouTube, Vine, Instagram and Periscope. Dan Pfeiffer, Obama’s highly-regarded former digital and social media guru, has said Trump is “way better at the internet than anyone else in the GOP which is partly why he is winning” (The Guardian, 2015). According to Trump, he “understands it maybe better than anybody, ever”. He has also called himself: “the Ernest Hemingway of 140 characters”. Trump Scocial Media So what is he really doing that is earning him such social media following? Let’s have a quick look: Being “unapologetically Trump” on Instagram: His Instagram account realdonaldtrump has 1.2 million followers, leaving behind Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and his fellow Republican candidates. While the Instagram feeds of his fellow candidates are stylized, contrived, curated and often boring, Trump’s Instagram feed is “unapologetically Trump” where he is tells you he’s richer than rich, ruder than rude, madder than mad. Sure, the campaign clichés are all there, but he’s always ready to attack his opponents and call out his critics. According to his supporters, he is unfiltered and #authentic.  Trump’s 15-second quick desk-based rants and out-of-context soundbites are often picked up and run across mainstream TV networks providing him free TV advertising that his fellow candidates are spending millions over. Liar Liar

Little Marco Rubio is just another Washington D.C. politician that is all talk and no action. #RobotRubio

A video posted by Donald J. Trump (@realdonaldtrump) on

We need a strong leader- and fast! A video posted by Donald J. Trump (@realdonaldtrump) on

Being a master manipulator on Twitter: Trump has mastered the art of “going to Twitter, erupting a controversy by saying something outrageous and then dominating the news cycle for 24 hours” (Hall, 2016). In the old days, when saying something offensive and arrogant would have been political suicide, in the world of reality TV it only makes the candidate more famous. Previously, scathing attacks on individuals and ethnic groups would scare away voters but on Twitter, insulting people and throwing rhetorical bombs doesn’t cost you followers. It usually gains you lots of followers. Whenever Trump makes a provocative remark, hundreds of thousands of strangers defend him, spread his message and engage in emotional debates with his critics, all the while ensuring he remains the subject of a constant conversation.

Besides being controversial, Trump is boosting his following by composing the tweets himself — locked caps and spelling errors included. “It is incredible to see a leading candidate like Trump tweeting personally. He understood that carefully scripted soundbites on Twitter weren’t going to get the attention needed to dominate, said Digital Media Strategist, Mindy Finn(Hall, 2016). He often engages in gossip, celebrity and popular culture. Trump is also a skilled live-tweeter. His Twitter coverage of major events like the 2012 GOP Debate, Oscars and Celebrity Apprentice has become a key part of his online presence. Live tweeting a popular event is an opportunity to engage with a wide audience in real time and Trump knows that.  donald.hillary Oscars

What scares some is the idea that the reality-show president could soon become reality. However, let’s not forget that social media activity and popularity does not necessarily translate to the polls or electoral success. It is much easier to click a “like” button than make the effort to go to the voting booth. Also, just because a person follows a social media account, it doesn’t mean they agree with or support it. I personally follow his accounts to keep abreast with all his latest antics, but if I were an American, I would rather amputate my finger than go vote for Trump. It remains to be seen whether a man so hateful, so farcical can become #POTUS because of his social media prowess and strong following. 

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