Lessons Learned from Mr. Trump’s Use of Twitter

OPED: On Mr. Trump’s use of Twitter, not what he posts on Twitter.


There are many insights and lessons to be learned from Mr. Trump’s use of Twitter.  Here are just a few:


Lesson 1 – Twitter is anyone there?  Saying no one is listening really applies because the masses of Twitter users have accounts but don’t use them.  However, there is one group that tracks every Trump Tweet and often comments as well.  Is it the mainstream media.  I mean everyone in the news business reads his Twitter posts and then builds their own opinion of what they think it means.  You ask, why should the media comment on Trump’s posts.  The answer is: that is what they do and have always done.  Most of the cable, TV, and radio networks are not about reporting the news.  They say they do but they really don’t.  Just watch the old movies about newspapers and see how they manipulated the news to their own agenda.  Even now newspapers take sides on nearly all issue or candidate.  Getting newspaper endorsements was often critical to a candidate getting elected or an issue being passed or defeated.  Nothing has changed.  TV, radio, cable and social media have mimicked the traditional newspaper model.  I can’t say that Mr. Trump did or did not learn from President Nixon’s treatment of the media.  However, Mr. Trump has used Nixon’s playbook on politics, friends, and especially foes each with their own moniker or nickname which are far too many to mention here.  Nixon was one of the first to use TV to reach the masses.  Today, Trump uses Twitter to talk, or tweet in this case, directly to his audience without being misquoted or taken out of context either.  Then by dismissing the mainstream traditional media as “fake” or “lying” Trump diminishes old school news as not news worthy or worse, not worth watching.  By elevating his thoughts and vilifying others gives Trump, or anyone more, value to what they are saying.  The media now comments on Trumps Tweets but reads or shows his tweets before they add their own comment.  This further devalues traditional media.  Lesson 1 – Control your message otherwise the media will do your demise.  Direct the media to your message otherwise succumb to their message.


Lesson 2 – Twitter: Is anyone listening? Having been to a series of too many business networking events recently, admittedly many were predominantly B2C companies but nevertheless, everyone, and I mean everyone, has a negatively opinion of President Trumps Twitter posts.  Now I am skeptic, but also curious of what anyone has to say either way.  Is there something to be learned from all the flurry and fury over the President’s use of this very controversial platform.  Before digging in I also asked people about their opinion of Twitter in general.  Yes, the answer is the same.  People thought negatively about Twitter with or without Mr. Trump.  Why I asked.  I really wanted to know why.  Was it because they hated the news, politics, tech, or something else.  The answer is a bit elusive, but the problem is that people don’t know what Twitter is really good for or why they should use it.  I probed further and most people described Twitter not by what it was but what other social media they use such Facebook for friends, Instagram for pics, Pinterest for shopping and Snapchat for teen chatter.  Also, not many people were even on Twitter, so they really didn’t know much about it.  Yes, everyone had heard of it.  I also found a group of people who had Twitter accounts but more often than not said, “I really don’t use it.”  Ok, was there anyone who really used it, like I do.  I found very few who used it, but when I looked at what they were doing on Twitter it was little more than lots of “news selfies” about themselves and what they were doing.  Lesson 2 – Trump’s tweets but is anyone really listening. 


Lesson 3 – Mixing the messages changes the meaning.  This is the really exciting part about Trump and Twitter as well as you, too.  Let’s start with some Twitter basics.  Twitter is not a once-a-day event like the old morning or evening news.  Twitter is 7×24 and “always on.” Trump tweets at 3A and people comment on the time even before they comment on what he said.  News never stops. This makes Twitter even more multi-dimensional.  Meaning you can Twitter as often as you like, and I do mean a lot.  Twitter can also be shared by the poster and more importantly by their followers. Here are some interesting thoughts:  One, you can send the same Twitter post at least once a day, every day. You see the same TV ad all day, so why not on Twitter.   Why, because you can and also that not everyone is online at the same time. Like a boat floating down a stream, some may “miss the boat” (ha-ha).   Two, Users can also have multiple accounts (though discouraged by Twitter) from which to place the same Tweets.  Three, get other users to retweet or share your posts.  This is the real, though certainly not secret, weapon of Twitter to “spread the word.”  Four, users can share Twitter posts of others with their followers.  For example, in reviewing Trump’s Twitter account @realdonaldtrump with more than 53M followers, the more outrageous the tweet the more that tweet is retweeted by others to their followers often up to 30K retweets and up to 150K likes.  This “gasoline on the fire” effect fuels even greater message distribution.  Message “acceleration” is really powerful because it’s like you riding across the town like Paul Revenue shouting “The British are coming” with thousands of riders across the world all shouting at the same time. What adds to the furry, or flurry, is to get other Twitter users to comment on your Twitter post.  This also accelerates the original message.  I am not sure anyone really understands the impact of that kind of messaging acceleration.  However, what mitigates the impact is that Twitter is a fast-moving stream and, even if you have millions of followers, the ability of anyone to monitor, analyze, realize and do something about it actually diminishes the impact as the signal gets mired with next tweet and so on. #Hashtags or special categories are great as users often don’t just read posts in the Twitter feed on their home page.  Hashtags also emerge with any event, crisis, comment or brand.  However, Twitter algorithms (road rules) push content to you based on what they think you want to see not who you follow or expect to see. It has been reported and from personal use Twitter algorithms also punishes you if you use too many hashtags.  Of course, you can create your own hashtag for your brand, event or other thing your think people would be interested in.  However, realize like with growing a traditional brand you have to it often and the hashtag must have something of interest.  Otherwise it is just another exercise that makes marketing more meaningless.  In addition, changing the message does little to add to the impact but only to the confusing from the first.  Lesson 3 – mixing messages may work but also mixes up the understanding.


Lesson 4 – Democracy is now in turmoil or is it?  The really value of Twitter is that it is a true democracy.  Anyone can post and your message can be heard by potentially millions or only those who follow you.  For the first time, you now have your own global news platform.  Like with any local or global news service, messages can be seen or not.  However, if you search you can find news on almost any topic.  Whether the news is “good,” or true, should always be in question.  For readers, you should always “consider the source.”  For example, when anyone Twitters, including Trump, they are driving their own message agenda.  However, in the case of Trump, he got elected President by, among many other reasons, his use of Twitter and he may have a greater impact on anyone or anything you would write or others: some who even have more followers than his does.  He has the real job of President of the US and until you get elected you don’t.  This puts his agenda, in nearly all cases, ahead of yours.  However, you can learn from his tweets how to push your own message and agenda.  Like the original freedom activists in Egypt who used Twitter to organize their own efforts to change the government.  You can too.  No one is stopping you and even people like @Emma4change, who was a student at Parkland HS and now has 1.6 million followers, can emerge as a news source.  Anyone can rise to having millions of followers and having a major voice in many key topics.  These people are now news leaders aka “social influencers” and can, like Trump, drive their own agenda.  However, what impact will influencers really have, now or in the future, has yet to be determined.  Like the major newspaper in Denver who has no impact in Chicago, or even in nearby Boulder, recognize any message has only a limited audience.  Yes, Twitter is a democracy, but like any democracy there are limits to what influence they have on anyone, even those living in it.  Moreover, if you only talk about yourself, you lessen the impact as in the saying, it’s not about how much you love but about how you are loved by others.  Lesson 4 – Twitter democracies are like “soap boxes” and everyone has a box, but your voice may not be heard by anyone.


Lesson 5 – Engagement – When you say something to another you really never know what impact you have, if any.  I have a saying that “communications will always fail except by chance.”  Reflecting upon that, any message sent across any media may not be received or understood.  Engagement means really listening and not just receiving what another person says but understanding what they meant by it and “walking in their moccasin’s” to realize what they mean from their perspective.  Engaging others on Twitter begins by acknowledging and thanking others who share or retweet your posts with their users.  They may have fewer users than you do but unless you go through their followers, which you can certainly do, you don’t know who they are and one of their followers may have millions more followers than you do.  This means that every follower you have is worth respecting though you may not think so.  Engaging with other followers means retweeting what they say and learning more about them (walking in their moccasins) and helping them, should you wish to do so, expand their presence across the Twitter space.  In other words, “lift all boats;” it’s good for all.  This does not mean you should not push your agenda but persuade others to understand your message and share it with their follower fans.  Lesson 5 – engagement means more than speaking your mind but lifting the views and thoughts of others.


Lesson 6 – Tirades – Nearly every day there is a tirade by Trump for or against and nearly every other subject you can imagine on Twitter that ends up on the Trends for your Twitter home page where all the Twitter posts go who are the top retweets and likes.  These Twitter tirades are like tweet storms or tornadoes that spin out of control as there are endless comments, misquotes and craziness that seriously dilute the original argument.  You can jump into the swamp thinking that your comment on someone else’s comment will be the one that makes everyone else realize “the light” and stop.  Yet for all the potential for your message to be the one that “goes viral” the nature of Twitter algorithms does not push your tweet to the top of the hashtag or search box no matter how many times it has been liked or retweeted.  Lesson 6 – Tweets on the news or any other subject do not mean people are reading much less agreeing with your point of view – less is often more.


Bottom-line – Few people listen to anyone who talks all the time. Additionally, fewer people are listening than you think.  Message acceleration does not mean greater understanding just more distribution.  More is not more; more is less.  Twitter’s value as a democratic news source is only of as much value as your ability to provide a deeper and more thoughtful approach to the issue.

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