How the public can shape Trump on Twitter

Getty Images

President Donald Trump has used Twitter to become a powerful force, not just as a campaigner, but as a person who can influence markets, put pressure on politicians, and set a national agenda with just a few tweets.

Yet, according to an NBC/WSJ poll, nearly 70 percent of Americans do not approve of Trump’s tweeting. With almost three quarters of the country wanting him to change, it stands reason that a sizable percentage of those who voted for Trump are included in that poll and are not pleased with his online behavior.

Trump talks about unifying the divided country. Here would be a place to start: on an issue that has bipartisan support from the majority of the nation.

{mosads}That’s not to say Trump should stop tweeting. It has been an effective tool and has even helped to highlight some important issues. When Trump joined others in bringing attention to the House Republicans voting to weaken an ethics watchdog, Trump helped to put more pressure on Congressional members to rethink making that a priority. While constituent outrage played a major role, too, there is no denying that Trump’s influence on social media assisted in spotlighting what was happening.

But then, for every positive moment like that, he also has a mindless one like attacking Meryl Streep or complaining about a Saturday Night Live skit about him.

And this is where the public can be a check on Trump. Whether you voted for Trump or not, with the majority of Americans wanting Trump to refine his ways on Twitter, the public can let know Trump when he’s veering of course. There’s reason to believe he might listen, too.

On the campaign, Trump would often retweet and engage with supporters on Twitter. That demonstrates that, at least at times, he is listening. He also follows public polling about him, even if he claims “they are rigged.”

If every time that Trump is on an unproductive Twitter rant he is bombarded with instant feedback, it could make a difference. Here’s the key, though, it has to come from supporters, not just the usual critics.

There is a great responsibility for those who voted for Trump and are not pleased with his social media activity. Sure, Trump needs to hear from those who opposed him, but that is already happening. If voices that were pro-Trump during the campaign make sure to assert themselves when appropriate — Trump may take note.

That means respectfully stating on social media when the president has crossed the line on Twitter. And for those who have been doing that since the dawn of his campaign, the pressure must stay on.

This is in the country’s best interest. Trump has built true power with what he can do on Twitter, but just like in the story, “The Boy Who Cried Wolf,” if he does not use this tool wisely, he will diminish any positive it can do.

During the course of four years, it will be easy to become desensitized to a Trump tweet. He is now at a pivotal moment. He has built enough clout where when he tweets it matters, but America has not been exposed to it for so long that it has become as routine as morning coffee.

Not every American will agree as to whether a tweet was appropriate or not. Some people will view every tweet with disdain, while others will praise anything that is posted.

But this is a plea to the middle. That includes those who did not vote for Trump but want him to be pragmatic. It includes those who voted Trump but want to keep him focused on the problems that they put him in office to solve. And it includes those who didn’t vote but want the president to represent the country with the highest integrity.

Social media has become one of Trump’s most commanding weapons, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be kept in check through collective persuasion by the people.

When Trump took the oath of office, like it or not, his voice became the country’s voice. If social media is where Trump wants to be heard, then it is also social media where the public must speak to him to influence him.  

Adam Chiara is an Assistant Professor of Communication at the University of Hartford. He has worked as a legislative aide in the Connecticut General Assembly, a journalist, and as a public relations practitioner. He’s on Twitter at @AdamChiara.

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

Tags Donald Trump Donald Trump Social media Tweeting

The Hill has removed its comment section, as there are many other forums for readers to participate in the conversation. We invite you to join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter.

Most Popular

Load more


See all Video