Love him or hate him, there’s no denying that Donald Trump has made his presence known in the ensuing battle for the highest seat in the U.S. government. His tactics are unorthodox and, depending on your point of view, he either comes across as a bully or a strong and self-assured individual unafraid to say what’s on his mind, something that many voters crave in a world where public apologies by celebrities and politicians have become an exercise in acting prowess.
The Donald’s unconventional antics throughout the debates have not only earned him a spotlight in the press, but they have led to him beating out 16 other candidates for the GOP endorsement, something that no one really believed to be possible when he first announced he intended to run on the republican party ticket last year. The brash businessman has proven himself in other arenas, with a net worth estimated at $4 billion and a successful reality TV show, but a presidential candidate?
Everyone thought it was a joke. Apparently Donald Trump is getting the last laugh. While other candidates and pundits alike took pot-shots at his hair, his skin tone, and the size of his, er, hands, Donald Trump was not-so-quietly waging a war on the weakest links in the Republican Party – not the candidates themselves, but the fact that the GOP is increasingly out of touch with the voting public.
At this point Donald Trump seems to be an unstoppable force. How could everyone have been so wrong? Believe it or not, Donald Trump has a very smart strategy. Here are just a few ways in which Trump’s social media tactics have helped him to trump the competition.
A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words
We’ve all heard this adage, but Trump used the concept to full advantage, turning what could have been a negative for his campaign into a positive. The dustup began when Make America Awesome posted a nude photo of Trump’s wife, Melania, on Twitter prior to the Utah caucuses, ostensibly highlighting the fact that the potential first lady might not share the same modest values as other Americans (particularly in heavily Mormon Utah).
Believing competitor Ted Cruz was behind the attack, Trump responded by posting side-by-side photos of both wives on Twitter, clearly favoring Melania over Heidi Cruz, with the caption, “The images are worth a thousand words.” It’s unfortunate that the candidate’s wives were dragged into the mudslinging, but Trump clearly saw the incident as an opportunity to one-up the competition. His post received 25,000 likes and nearly 10,000 retweets, not to mention countless mention on other forms of media, including legitimate news programs.
Undermining the Competition
Trump has come up with unflattering nicknames for his competitors, like Lyin’ Ted Cruz. He has insulted other candidates by calling out physical flaws, like when he splashed water on the stage at a debate and yelled, “It’s Rubio!”, alluding to Marco Rubio’s excessive sweating. He has used vulgar terms to cut down his competition, recently saying that Hillary Clinton was “schlonged” by President Barack Obama during the 2008 election.
He takes every opportunity to mock, debase, and undermine his competitors. While this might have done more damage to the candidate dealing out insults in past generations, Trump has shown a keen understanding of how social media works. Bad behavior is rewarded and Trump is delivering and capitalizing in the aftermath.
Banking on Shareability
No one would deny that Donald Trump is an entertainer. From his oversized personality to his oft-repeated catchphrases (could anyone else virtually own the phrase “you’re fired”?), Trump has earned a reputation as an attention-grabber. His brash style is ideally suited to the social media landscape.
He seems to understand that the more extreme his behavior is, the more it benefits him in the social media landscape as videos go viral, memes are created and shared, and bad behavior is celebrated. In an arena where social currency revolves around being the first to share the latest and greatest internet sensation, Trump has seized on a concept for garnering popularity that no other candidate seems to have considered: pandering to platforms that constantly require fresh content, and the more outlandish the better.
This strategy of mastering social media has paid off in a big way for Trump, who now boasts nearly 8 million Twitter followers. The “Trump Train” is on a roll, not because Trump is necessarily the best candidate for president, but because he has proven himself the most savvy when it comes to social media.
Will Trump’s social media machine take him all the way to the White House? It remains to be seen, but one thing is certain: it’s already gotten him further than anyone suspected, proving the power of mastering the technology of the time.