A friend challenged me the other day to write something nice about Donald Trump. Easy to do, actually.
Donald Trump understands social media better than any other presidential candidate. He uses it more effectively than any other presidential candidate.
Why? His id matches the id of the fora he chooses. There are two of them, actually: He uses Twitter and online videos. He ignores everything else, because he has no organic reason to be there. He is authentic. He tweets as he thinks, which is precisely the way that Twitter is supposed to work.
Unlike other candidates, he has no need to use Twitter to troll for money, or to induce people to sign up for a dinner with Hillary Clinton, or to sign a petition for Mike Pence that will go nowhere and accomplish nothing.
Trump does not use Twitter instrumentally. He enjoys it. And he is, instinctively, an online troll.
One social media guru asked me whether by effective use I meant the ability to move minds. No, I don't. But Twitter is not a medium for moving minds. It would not make sense to expect Trump or anyone else to use Twitter to gain traction in a presidential race, in the same way that it wouldn't make sense for TV shows to use Twitter to persuade people that their show isn't crappy. That's not what Twitter does. It enhances engagement.
Ah, engagement. The leading cross-over marketing term of our time. The other presidential candidates think they're engaging in engagement when they use Twitter (substitute another technology like Facebook here too) to jump onto cause hashtags, or to multiply the sound and reach of a communication. They use it for rapid response, particularly to the political elites who spend their day on Twitter.
Trump — he just uses it because it's how he communicates.
On my Twitter account, I posed a question for 2016 presidential candidate communications staff: Has your candidate ever tweeted or posted something without first running it by a consultant?
Ever? I doubt it.