Donald Trump and his “precious” Twitter

POETUS Donald Trump is extremely Twitter savvy not shying away from commenting basically on anything from North Korea to The Apprentice ratings. Do you expect that he will use Twitter the same way also after becoming POTUS and what pros and cons it may have for him? Read few comments.

Allan Louden, Professor of Communication, Wake Forest University

Basic theme, presidents and press always compete for control and right now Trump is winning. He won’t change is ways.

Technology and the sitting president are always in state of flux; change is the only constant. Politicians who best master unfolding media find a road to leadership. In the classic quandary, the chicken or the egg, we debate if Trump is a product of or unique adventurer in social media.

Presidents and technology have a long history, from controlling the “party” newspapers in the early years of the republic to our current barrage of social media. The President and Media always grapple for dominance, roughly taking turns for who dictates. The press laments whenever President’s master new technology that bypass their gatekeeper role.

Franklin Roosevelt’s use of radio, John Kenney’s television ascendancy, Ronald Reagan’s mastery of visuals, and now Trump’s bypassing via twitter all have frustrated opponents and media alike. Speculation that Trump will/should “reign himself in” after the oath seems only “hopeful thinking.” Why would he refrain; his style is decades old, and seemingly reinventing presidential communication works.

Trump twitter has many effects, driving the news cycles, illuminating the elephant in the room, often stimulating fruitful national debates. The media is prone to interpret Trump tweets as depreciating the political arena. Certainly many are trivial, petty, personal, yet others rearrange business enterprises and entire geopolitical landscapes. The sustainability jury is out . . .

Vincent Raynauld, Assistant Professor, Communication Studies, Emerson College

This question can be answered in two ways. One one hand, I suspect Donald Trump will try to remain active on Twitter as much as possible. This digital media channel enables him to bypass traditional media filters and communicate, connect and, to a much lesser extent, interact with members of the U.S. public on his own terms. In an era of permanent campaigning, Twitter has given President-elect Trump the ability to be very reactive to current events, to adopt an informal tone enabling him to connect with the public, as well as to shape the political debate in ways that are beneficial to him personally as well as to his incoming administration (his tweets are often re-used without being edited by traditional media).

On the other hand, as he will be sworn in as President of the United States on January 20, 2016, institutional pressures might force him to alter the ways in which he tweets. For example, the influence and responsibilities linked to the Office of the President of the United States might lead him to reconsider the type of information he shares in the Twitterverse as well as the tone of his tweets. It will be important to keep an eye on his tweets over the next few weeks.

There are several advantages. As stated in one of the paragraphs above, it enables him to bypass traditional media filters and engage with the U.S. public directly. Furthermore, it allows him to keep a certain control on the public conversation. 140-character tweets allow him to have greater control on the framing of the public political conversation than longer press conferences (e.g. selection of specific quotes by journalists). Finally, Twitter enables him to be very reactive to what is happening in the United States and internationally, as we have seen over the past few weeks.

However, there are some disadvantages. For example, Twitter is a highly interactive environment and it exposes the incoming President to comments and replies from members of the public. Furthermore, Twitter is “on the record” as tweets can be retweeted and shared by users across the worldwide social media environment. A tweet with a mistake (e.g. https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/2422519/donald-trump-ridiculed-on-twitter-over-embarrassing-spelling-mistake-in-comment-on-stolen-us-drone/) can therefore receive a lot of attention.

William Benoit, Professor, School of Communication Studies, Ohio University

My best guess is that he will use Twitter the same way he did in the campaigns (and as we’ve seen so far after the campaign).  Trump, like all politicians, is divisive – although he is on the high end of the divisive-nondivisive scale (as is H. Clinton).  So, some people will like most of his tweets, some will ignore them, and others will attack him on as many grounds as they can think of.

Probably not really relevant, but Trump changed campaigning forever.  He spent little on TV advertising in both the primary and the general election (in the past, president candidates spent more than was spent in the last election cycle.  There is no chance ads will disappear, but they very well could become less common/less important.

Mainly, what Trump did is use Twitter as no presidential candidate (and as far as I know, no political candidate) used it.  Clinton used her Twitter feed to make announcements.  I’m appearing here.  Look there is a new link on my webpage.  Hey, there is a new video on my Facebook.  And so on.

I don’t remember the exact number, but Trump retweeted comments from his supporters 40% or 60% of the time.  This made them feel important (Hey, I’m on Trump’s Twitter feed!), feel like they were a part of the campaign.  Hillary NEVER retweeted anything from her supporters in the sample of the study I read.

Trump may be unique as a candidate: He was already well-known as a TV celebrity.  Nearly everyone thought he was rich and successful (although no one knew exactly how rich).  Reagan was well-known but not as rich as Trump (probably) and he was “just” an actor (and former Governor).  Some people probably thought Trump was a great businessman and he could run things.

He also used Tweets to make extremely controversial remarks, revving up his supporters and guaranteeing huge amounts of TV (including Internet video) exposure.  And he appealed to many with his “I’m NOT a Washington insider.”

So, I predict that TV spots will still be used but perhaps not as much.  Twitter will be an extremely important component of all serious campaigns.

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