Are Trump’s tweets stupid or strategic?
© Getty

It’s no secret that Twitter is Trump’s soap box du jour. In one day, Trump blasted Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenate GOP breaks record on confirming Trump picks for key court Senate Democrats block resolution supporting ICE The Hill's Morning Report — Trump’s walk-back fails to stem outrage on Putin meeting MORE for failing to repeal and replace ObamaCare, firmly cementing the ongoing feud between the two Republicans and — perhaps most significant — highlighting the divide between two divisions of government.

Then, when addressing the North Korean threat of attack toward Guam, Trump retweeted a report containing classified information, which caused Democratic Rep. Ted Lieu to remark, “It is alarming the casualness with which President Trump shares classified information. Just because something is in the press doesn't make that information no longer classified, so the president should not be tweeting classified information just because he is the president.”

ADVERTISEMENT
Anthony “The Mooch” Scaramucci, the fourth White House communications director to take the position since Trump took office over 200 days ago, was ousted after just 10 days on the job. And while there has been some considerable reshuffling within the Trump administration, no other job in the White House has had such a revolving door of representatives like this one.

 

Some were fired, while others, like Michael Dubke and Jason Miller, stepped down. The latter hadn’t even been sworn in yet. And who can blame them, when Trump prefers to bypass traditional methods of communicating important messages, firing off tweets faster than the time it took for “covfefe” to go viral?

Perhaps the most poignant was the official announcement regarding Trump’s decision to ban transgender people from military service, made in a series of tweets in what many politicians have dubbed yet another example of policy announcements that shouldn’t be circulated via social media.

In a simple sentence, Trump informed his 35 million-plus followers, “After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the US Military.”

While the majority of Trump’s tweets are brimming with controversy, there’s something to be said for cutting out the communications middleman to get your message across. And this strategy seems to be catching on. More and more politicians are preferring to issue statements in 140 characters or less, making social media an essential tool for political candidates. Utilizing social media platforms presents a major revolution in the way people interact, but in turn, it’s a growing cause of concern for traditional media outlets.

It can be argued that every presidential election since Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaEx-White House stenographer: Trump is ‘lying to the American people’ Trump has the right foreign policy strategy — he just needs to stop talking The Hill's 12:30 Report — Trump faces bipartisan criticism over Putin presser, blames media for coverage MORE’s win in 2008 was won on social media platforms — the candidate that was able to better utilize these platforms took out the election. This spans beyond just the U.S., into the Brexit vote and the recent election result in France.

“When implemented appropriately, a targeted social media advocacy strategy can shape a narrative and lead to a virtual uprising, which can culminate in an issue going viral,” says Matt Anthes, co-founder and CEO of SociallyMined, a social media advocacy firm based in Washington, D.C. “That said, Washington, D.C., is still a shoe-leather lobbying town. For many, embracing change and applying social media outreach to a traditional advocacy campaign is foreign to them.”

The Trump administration was quick to harness the power of social media, and it has been said within political circles that it utilized social media aggressively — micro-targeting different audiences with opposite messages without disclosing itself as the source of the promotional information.  

For example, on Election Day, potential Trump voters were told that the election was very close and they needed to go out and vote, while potential Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonState Dept: Russia’s allegations about American citizens ‘absolutely absurd’ Trump on possible sit-down with Mueller: 'I've always wanted to do an interview' Election Countdown: Senate, House Dems build cash advantage | 2020 Dems slam Trump over Putin presser | Trump has M in war chest | Republican blasts parents for donating to rival | Ocasio-Cortez, Sanders to campaign in Kansas MORE voters were told the opposite: that it was in the bag and there was no need to worry.

On the one hand, the use of social media as a political tool can improve citizen-government engagement, allowing constituencies to feel as though they are involved and that their voice is being heard, says Anthes, who also states that it serves as a tool to build awareness for issues and enables individuals to influence the public conversation in a targeted, hyper-local way. Social media can rally public sentiment and support for political campaigns in a way that is constantly changing.

That said, governments and politicians alike must understand the importance of tracking social media sentiment and keeping up to speed with trending topics to ensure an alignment with what the masses deem worthy of consumption. Despite the tremendous opportunity it presents, very few political candidates and government agencies use social media effectively.

Unlike brands, they seem to flock to traditional, familiar channels instead of building their online presence. Brands across verticals from fashion to food are utilizing influencers as advocates in a bid to reach their interested, engaged and loyal audiences. SociallyMined shared with us that it has been speaking with politicians across the board, who are amassing armies of micro-influencers that share an ideological connection with them and their policies so they can utilize them in their next elections.

Most politicians, unless they’re very well known, will have a relatively small following on social media and a comparatively mundane online presence. They don’t utilize much technology to understand their audience.

Advocacy experts believe that this mentality needs to change; the ones refusing to adapt will be left behind. Implementing social media into a campaign strategy is essential, although admittedly, it’s a slippery slope. Simple mistakes like “covfefe” can lead to weeks of ridicule, and there’s always a plethora of people waiting for the next slip-up. On the other hand, a simple statement like Clinton's “delete your account” can win a candidate significant points in an online debate.

Elected officials should strategically utilize social media as a way to communicate with their constituent base and keep them informed of issues as they arise. They should be socially savvy, micro-targeting specific demographics within their following to direct targeted messaging at those who will consume, engage and amplify the message. And most importantly, they should always use spell check.

Gil Eyal is the CEO and co-founder of HYPR, which organizes social media information and makes specific audiences reachable at scale. Founded in 2013, HYPR’s search engine leverages its smart index that houses profiles and audience demographic information for over 10 million influencers across major social channels.


The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.