@realDonaldTrump or @POTUS?
January 20, 2017
Below is an intra-office conversation via Slack between Andrew Knoblauch, social and digital supervisor; Adam Sisson, social media account executive; Jake Ziegler, social media manager; and Paul Gangarossa, PR Executive.
andrew [9:05 AM]
Alright guys, it’s Inauguration Day and President-elect Donald Trump will become America’s 45th Commander-in-Chief. Fox News is reporting that Trump will not change his Twitter handle to @POTUS opting instead to keep @realDonaldTrump. What do you all think of the move?
adam_sisson [9:07 AM]
As far as personal branding is concerned, I think it's a smart move. Part of the "Donald" brand is just what his Twitter handle says - being real. He prides himself on not being like other presidents before him, and a big part of his campaign was to knock the "shady" decisions of classic politicians. But at what point does he have to put his personal brand aside and change it to being the leader of our country?
paulgangarossa [9:08 AM]
Sounds about right. Any chance he can make something his own, he's going to take it. It's been his MO so far and it's not about to change. Agreed, it's another slap in the face of presidential precedents, one that's specific to Obama.
And it's hard to argue with it in this case. His following dwarfs the @potus account, and he's not one to use a smaller megaphone.
andrew [9:11 AM]
Just to illustrate your point, Paul, here are some numbers. Trump’s following: 20.5 million; POTUS: 13.7 million. Roughly 7 million more people follow our future president. I think one thing to think about is “who” those people are. We can assume many are American citizens, but to your point, is most of Trump’s following just his base?
paulgangarossa [9:13 AM] I'm sure most is his base, but not by a ton. He's probably got a "Howard Stern Effect" where people who oppose him are some of his most engaged followers.
jake [9:16 AM] I think the question real question is: does it actually matter? Twitter has been stagnant in growth. With just over 300 million users, it has almost 1 BILLION less active users than Facebook. Why should Donald Trump surrender millions of followers for a handle? It doesn’t make sense.
[9:17] To build up such a large following on a channel that’s stagnant in growth is impressive. Surrendering those followers means that you lose a major amount of your voice.
adam_sisson [9:20 AM] Trump's current followers may be mostly made up of his base, but as his presidency continues it should grow to include those on both sides. @BarackObama has 80.8M followers, which probably wasn't the case before he took over the office. No matter what the handle says, it's just a source for people to get the information they need about our country. And Jake I think you're right - it doesn't seem to make much sense to abandon such a strong account with a massive following.
paulgangarossa [9:21 AM] He could just go and change his handle to something like @POTUSTrump or @realPOTUSTrump or @PresidentTrump or something like that. That would set a new precedent and keep his followers at the same time.
andrew [9:22 AM] Caleb Gardner joined our podcast, he was part of Obama For America and helped orchestrate the president’s various social accounts during his tenure. My guess is he sent out more tweets than President Obama ever did. If I’m Trump, I’m letting my staff handle the @POTUS account.
adam_sisson [9:24 AM] I think that's the big worry with Trump's personal account - no one is going to be monitoring what he's blasting off to the entire world. It's a little scary to think about.
andrew [9:25 AM] And no one ever has … or will … *insert scary music*
adam_sisson [9:26 AM] Let's prepare for 4 years of many cringe-worthy tweets
paulgangarossa [9:27 AM] The bonus is that whenever his term is up, the next POTUS won't be saddled with his account.
andrew [9:28 AM] But, to play devil’s advocate, Trump effectively used social to help him win the election. He’d say whatever was on his mind to gain free media coverage and spent way less on traditional advertising than Hillary Clinton. There’s a NYT piece from October that outlines this pretty well. So, maybe he just wants to stick with that game plan?
paulgangarossa [9:31 AM] As only he can, because there are plenty of politicians who have Twitter accounts that can't do what he did. This was a situation where his message outweighed the medium, causing it to spill over into traditional news. The tactic doesn't work without a message worth retweeting, liking or hating.
andrew [9:31 AM] As Skip Bayless would say, “That’s deep and that’s true."
paulgangarossa [9:32 AM] Bayless/Sharpe in 2020??
andrew [9:35 AM] If presidential campaigns were decided by hot takes, they would definitely win. Alright, let’s wrap this up … fill in the blank: “If I was Donald Trump, in regards to the @POTUS handle I would ___________."
jake [9:36 AM] “tweet until my fingers fall off"
andrew [9:37 AM] Yeah, that’s how we should end it. Nice work, Jake.
adam_sisson [9:39 AM] *slow claps while eating hot dog with American Flag waving in the background*