Presidential Campaign

Trump may post the tweet, but it’s his followers who give it power

Yes, Donald Trump has an impressive social media following — 12.9 million just on Twitter alone.

Having that number is significant, and it is not just because it gives Trump a large audience. What is more important is that Trump has millions of surrogates spreading his narrative any time  he calls on them.

{mosads}Trump’s community of core followers is just as active as he is online. His strongest supporters relentlessly post their passion for the candidate and the election. They also act as an amplifier of the messages Trump creates. 

For example, when Trump insinuates that Hillary Clinton is too unhealthy for the presidency, or declares that the election is rigged, he has millions of followers who are willing to share that information to their own network of followers.

With more people than ever receiving the majority of their information about the election only from social media, this becomes problematic. Social streams have become a place where real news, opinion, and fake news blend seamlessly.

The result is that for many, it’s hard to decipher what is credible information. So an outrageous claim from a 140-character tweet can now turn into a “fact” because of the power of social amplification.

Social sharing is also a form of an endorsement. So someone following a Trump supporter on social media is more inclined to believe what is shared by that person if they are close to them offline. It’s human nature — an endorsement from a personal connection will carry more weight — whether it’s true or not.

Of course this all applies to Clinton and her supporters, too. However, she does not have the same massive social presence and has been as hyperbolic as her opponent.

This election has tested many conventional wisdoms in political theory. It was once thought that the news media and campaign advertising were the powerhouses in media. It’s time to find out if social media, and more specifically, the power of millions of individual voices, are now the true influencers.

Adam Chiara is an Assistant Professor of Communication at the University of Hartford. He has worked as a legislative aide, journalist, and as a public relations practitioner. You can connect with him on Twitter: @AdamChiara.


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