Corp America March 2017

88 CORP AMERICA / MARCH 2017 , President Donald Trump, regardless of your views on himand his politics, is markedly different to any of hisWhite House predecessors. One of the biggest differences is his frequent use of Twitter. Engaging Voters with Social Media He is certainly not the first politician to utilize social media. Recent presidential elections have seen significant social media influence. Starting in 2004 with Howard Dean’s campaign to be the Democratic Party’s candidate, through to Obama’s campaigns of 2008 and 2012, both of which were lauded as great examples of using social media and digital marketing to engage voters, drive campaign fundraising, and encourage voter turnout. However, we are now in a very different world and President Trump has taken the use of Twitter as a political tool to a whole new level. March 18th 2009 is a seemingly meaningless day, but in the context of the current political landscape, it is significant. On that day, eight years ago, Donald Trump opened his @ realDonaldTrump Twitter account. Since then, he has posted over 34,000 tweets. If you average it out since he joined, that’s roughly 12 per day. This frequency is very significant. Together with Israeli colleagues at the Interdisciplinary Center and Hebrew University, I have been researching prolific social media users. Frequent content contributors, like President Trump, are what we call ‘social pumps’ and in Trump we have the highest-profile example of all. Social pumps are those who post extremely frequently (approximately the 12-tweets-a- day mark). Our research finds that content posted by social pumps tends to spread wider than content posted by the rest of the population who use social media. The research helps us to understand the importance of Twitter for Trump during both the Republican primaries and the Presidential election campaign, and now in the first few weeks of his presidency. President Trump has a very large audience across his social media channels (almost 24 million on Twitter alone), which certainly helps him reach many people directly with his controversial messages. But it isn’t just the reach that matters, as our research suggests. His very high tweeting frequency likely plays a key role in rapidly propagating his messages – the media clearly play a big part in this too. In our studies, we’ve found that Twitter users are more inclined to retweet something from someone who is a social pump than someone who is not – in one study, about 50 per cent more likely to retweet. Being a social pump helps get the message out and spreading rapidly all over the place, which ultimately is needed for social influence to occur. His frequent use of Twitter, which surprisingly hasn’t really slowed down since taking office, is an important factor. But clearly there’s more to President Trump’s use of Twitter than just how often he tweets. It is what he says, how he says it, and his apparent disregard for traditional forms of diplomacy and political communications channels that make this president very different. President Trump appears to just tweet whatever he is thinking at the time – often as a means of attacking opponents or trying to influence or distort the news cycle. So far, he has used Twitter to share views on public policy and even high level discussions with other heads of state. Most recently, putting Iran ‘on notice’ over missile testing and calling a previous agreement on immigration with Australia, a ‘dumb deal’ following a call with Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull. Whilst many argue that this is not what one would expect from a US president in terms of appropriate forms of behavior and diplomacy, seen from a more ‘clinical’ perspective (i.e. without taking political sides), my sense is that this social pump uses Twitter in a very shrewd and calculated manner to help serve his purposes, speak directly to his political base, and set himself up in subsequent (behind closed doors) discussions and negotiations. And when he directly attacks someone, it attempts to draw a response from them – or endless discussions among pundits on cable news channels such as CNN. Is President Trump’s reliance on Twitter sustainable? Now that he is President, there are more traditional channels for diplomatic and political communications that he will absolutely have to get used to. However, I think we can say safely that he will not stop using this channel, as it has served him well. Whether it is serving democracy and the American people well remains to be seen. For instance, an NBC News/ Wall Street Journal poll amongst the American public found that 69 per cent said that Trump’s tweeting was bad, agreeing with the statement that ‘in an instant, messages can have unintended major implications without careful review.’ Whilst one would hope that public disapproval such as this might force him to change, I am doubtful. This president is very different in so many ways, including how he communicates with the world. But this is about as high stakes as it gets, and using 140 characters as a tool of statecraft does not seem right. K Company: Saïd Business School, University of Oxford Name: Professor Andrew Stephen, L’Oréal Professor of Marketing Email: [email protected] Web Address: Address: Saïd Business School Park End Street, Oxford OX1 1HP Telephone: +44 (0)1865 614659 1703CA15