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3 Risky Social Media Lessons from the Trump Campaign

By Mary C. Long, Last Modified
Aug 18, 2016
> Marketing

If you can put politics aside, there are many social media lessons to learn from the Donald Trump presidential campaign.

His team, and the Republican nominee himself, have used social media as a way to garner media attention in ways that are worth noting for any brand.

]Or any brand not afraid of a little controversy.

1. Good or Bad Press Depends on Your Point of View

Trump has complained that the media has been out to get him, but for every fumble, his social media presence just seems to grow. Is it all intentional? Stirring things up and negative attention do seem to fuel him. 

Case in point, after his wife’s speech at the Republican National Convention, where she was accused of plagiarizing bits of Michelle Obama's speech from the DNC eight years ago, Trump tweeted, “Good news is Melania's speech got more publicity than any in the history of politics especially if you believe that all press is good press!”

Donald Trump Tweet about Melania Speech screenshot

And there's the answer. It's all about perspective. What might have others hiding their heads in shame, Trump is more than happy to spin in a positive way.   

Other issues he takes in similar stride. Like when the campaign released their official general election logo with his name entwined with Indiana Governor Mike Pence’s. Social media was quick to make jokes about the image resembling something a little crass, leading to “roundup of tweets about Trump’s logo" pieces that circulated after the debacle. 

Trump Pence Presidential Logo

All the fuss still brought attention to Trump and his creative team so did it help him or hurt him in the end? The logo was quickly changed to something less mockable but it was otherwise business as usual for The Donald. People were still talking about him.

Anyone less ballsy would probably prefer to avoid the above mistakes, which would be wise for most. A little research and a close eye on social sentiment can go a long way toward keeping your brand out of the hot seat unless that's exactly where you want to be. Trump seems perfectly comfortable there. 

2. You Can Build Rapport With Anyone and Everyone

This is a risky way to approach a social marketing campaign, but if your brand can take a little heat, you can let even your haters have a voice. It's typically advisable not to "feed the trolls," but Trump again manages the ill-advised with a knack for beating detractors to the punch. When his former opponent failed to endorse him on the third day of the RNC, Trump was quick to tweet that he knew Texas Senator Ted Cruz had no intention of endorsing him. That way, he was able to turn the negativity into a positive. 

Donald Trump Tweet screenshot

Such baiting tweets are something very few brands can handle on their own unless they are a real estate mogul on their way to the White House. For Trump, it all seems to be part of the show. And if things don't work out for him, he has the assets to never need work again. Most brands can't say that thus most brands should probably play things a bit safer. 

3. Use Any Kind of Sentiment to Your Advantage

Intentionally trolling for media attention is very, very dangerous, but it’s something the Trump campaign has done without much blowback from his core audience. By most accounts, Trump is running his own Twitter account. When audience sentiment has been divided about his messaging, Trump is usually quick to defend his stance.

That makes everyone already on his side feel like they’re part of his team. Those on the opposing side may go negative on social media, but Trump is able to ignore the naysayers while repeating messages that speak right to the feelings of his target audience. The downside for most brands? You risk alienating people by being overly "in your face." If you're happy with the audience you've got, then have at it. If you're looking to expand into new markets, it makes more sense to play nice. It's pretty clear which side of that fence Trump falls on.

Something We Can All Agree On

The main lesson from the Trump campaign’s social media presence is that they're winning over the people they want to win over by focusing on making their followers feel closer to the candidate. That's definitely something all brands should do. And if, like Trump, you get some press coverage along the way, well that's just a bonus.

Typically you'd only want positive press, but in Trump's case, the more outlandish the message, the more he rises in positive sentiment among his followers. The more his detractors shake their fists to the sky? The more he rises in positive sentiment among his followers and the more the media pay attention. It's brilliant, if you can stand the heat.  

Mary C. Long
Mary C. Long
See Mary C. Long's Profile
Mary C. Long leads a ghostwriting, growth hacking and professional reputation firm based in New Orleans. She's checked every box companies should want when seeking online advice from recognized professionals, from being named to top influencer lists, quoted in leading publications, and asked to participate in industry events - though she often declines travel opportunities as part of her day is devoted to homeschooling (or hackshooling, to more accurately describe it). Online privacy and teaching businesses, individuals, families and schools about the dangers online are of particular interest to her, considering. You'll find Mary participating on every site that matters - and a few that don't, as Digital Media Ghost is everywhere a brand could be to better tell them where they should be.
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