FDR made it with the radio.
JFK rose through TV.
Barack Obama leveraged all things digital and was the pioneer of a political Facebook.
And Trump is the US republican nominee because he uses social media better than today’s high school drama queens. Tweeted 59 times in one day? Check. Got billions of dollars in free media coverage? Check. Has a Facebook picture of him eating a taco bowl with 502,000 shares? Check.
We all know he’s good. But what everyone’s undervaluing is just how fundamentally different the 2016 election has gone solely because of Donald Trump’s social media prowess.
Have you ever wondered why you’ve seen Donald Trump’s name so much?
Maybe it’s because of this –
Every media outlet on the internet, at some point, has covered the “Donald Trump conundrum” when he sends out his next offensive statement or his next rhetorical bombshell over Facebook/Twitter. Guess what? That’s free coverage.
In the past, extreme narcissism would have been a total turn off.
In the past, schoolyard insults to running mates was a losing strategy.
In the past, alienating a target ethnic group was like shooting yourself in the foot.
In the past, telling voters you don’t know the answer but will hire the best people when you’re elected was suicide.
But today, his very intentional social media tactics functioned to turn every US eyeball on him.
Ask yourself: How many of the other republican candidates did you actually learn a lot about? I’d wager very few. This is because through sheer bombardment of information on Trump’s campaign, he manipulated you into finally visiting one of his social profiles. And once there, I’d also wager you took a second or two to watch one of the many 30 second videos he’s published.
And voilà, he’s reached you made you think about his message – for better or for worse.
Why does his strategy work?
Let’s take a quick look at the playing field. We’ll include Hillary Clinton’s stats in here so you have a banana for scale.
His social media outlets have four core functions:
- A massive distribution platform to amplify visibility of his outlandish statements.
His brash statements on social media have earned him the internet’s spotlight and given him likely well over 2 billion in free media coverage, this much we already know.
- To test a new message to see if it resonates with his following.
Twitter functions as his real-time message tester. Without looking closely you might not see it, but Trumps campaign jumps to whatever issue is hottest and most prevalent in the public’s mind.
His deliberate and methodical use of Twitter allows him to quickly test a message out on his massive base of 8.8 million followers. If it doesn’t work, toss it out and never look back. But if it does appear to resonate, like when he accused President Obama of being too politically correct to say “Islamic Terrorists”, then he presses the issue, drills into it, brings it up in rallies, and mentions it in sound bite videos. Some of which you can see here:
- To tear down, and eventually, demolish his competition through negative branding – his only target now is Hillary.
After scrolling through the last four months of Trump’s Twitter account and using the “CTRL + Find” function I found this:
“Lyin’ Ted” – 75 uses
“Crooked Hillary” – 69 uses
And of course there’s also “Lil Marco” and “Low Energy Jeb”. This branding labels his opponents exactly how they don’t want to be labelled. And repetition is key. These brands systematically removed other runners from the race.
Using social media to create destructive branding like this has never been done before. Trump is playing by his own set of rules and no one else has seemed to be able to catch up. After being labelled, it didn’t matter what Ted Cruz said or did. All his claims were automatically chalked up as lies by a huge percentage of the population.
- To enforce the idea that he is winning and that other candidates don’t have a chance.
You want your vote count, right?
But when you feel like you’re voting for a candidate that has absolutely no chance at winning, you’re massively discouraged to vote for that person because it’s like “throwing your vote away”. And Trump knows this. So during many interviews and on his social media he repeats time after time that he’s winning. Here’s just a few examples.
But remember, Trump is not breaking the rules – he’s just playing by a different set of rules.
The average US citizen has been aware of these rules for a number of years now, and Trump has been the only political face to fully tap into them at this point.
More and more, elections will be decided solely on a candidate’s authenticity and likability, rather than their actual policies. So it’s without a doubt that I say social media and its evolutionary productions will only become increasingly important to the turnout of US elections. Even now, the 2016 election hangs in the balance and will likely come down to pivotal online moments, whether we choose to see it as such or not.
What we’ve seen from Donald Trump and his use of social media to win his nomination will inevitably teach all new presidential candidates to adapt to his rules or not run at all. Likewise, we can all learn a thing or two from Trump’s social media. Getting attention. Creating a polarized brand. Testing your messaging to find what resonates. These are just a few of his strategies. If you own a social page, learning these things sooner rather than later can put you in the lead, but you don’t have to learn them on your own.