8 Social Media Lessons From Donald Trump

Love him or hate him as a politician — and I ain’t getting into that here! — we can certainly all agree that Donald Trump as a marketer knows how to create awareness and drive engagement. So let’s take a closer at the Donald’s playbook and see how we can make our social media great again.

1. Don’t outsource. I don’t know how Trump’s social media accounts are managed, but it sure seems as if the Donald does his own tweeting. It all comes down to tone and timing. You’d know if it were someone else behind the keyboard.

So, too, it can be painfully obvious when a brand has its agency doing all the posting. There’s no problem with having outside resources supplement your efforts. In fact, this can be very effective when you’re tied up with, say, a televised town hall or just plain selfie-illiterate. But be sure to maintain editorial control in-house, and do it yourself every now and then to keep current and remain authentic.

2. Don’t overthink. No-one can accuse the Donald of spending too much time planning his content. To be sure, when it comes to shooting from the hip, he takes it to an extreme with unscripted utterances and reckless retweets. However, there is something to be said for just getting it out there. Often, brands can fall into the trap of analysis paralysis or worse, just regurgitating pre-approved content. Avoid this at all costs.

3. Your brand is everything. Trump Tower. Trump Golf. Trump Winery. Trump Ice. It’s taken years for Trump to cultivate his brand persona, and it’s going to take more than one viral clip to tear it down. Brands can build the same invincibility with careful and consistent execution. To that end, social media can be a great accelerator. Make sure your brand is front and center on relevant content, and give your followers the tools to share far and wide.

4. Own a hashtag. Speaking of tools for sharing, a custom hashtag can be a great way to build your brand. It can be heady and inspirational, a la #MakeAmericaGreatAgain, witty and punny a la #ShipMyPants or just brand-y and advocate-y, a la #ShareaCoke.

5. Speak in sound bytes. The next best think to a clickable hashtag is a retweetable sound byte. And the Donald is full of those. His rhetoric is intentionally inflammatory — and, as such, gets massive amplification by supporters and non-supporters alike. Brands would do well to avoid incendiary instigation but can certainly find ways to deliver bite-sized nuggets that people will want to chew on.

6. Keep it simple. Trump is the king of short, plain language. He speaks like he tweets: in short bursts. He avoids complex sentences and rearranges their structure to end with words that will have the biggest impact. Besides the character limits of various social platforms, being brief is key to success for brands in today’s short-attention-span world.

With myriad devices and channels competing for eyeballs and swipes, the only way to stand out is to be succinct. So, if you’re ever tempted to go on a rant that requires multiple numbered posts, don’t. As the Donald would say, ”That’s third-rate.”

7. Know your audience. Trump offends a lot of people. But he doesn’t care. Why? They’re not his target audience. And by offending those not in his target audience, he ingratiates himself further with the people who are his target. Trump supporters love it when he bullies his opponents and detractors, because he says what they’re thinking and isn’t worried about political correctness.

Now, I’m not condoning Trump’s tactics — but you have to admit they’re effective in terms of resonating with his audience. To be sure, brands can learn from this, especially those with niche target audiences. Don’t spend time trying to be all things to all people. Focus on the customers you want to reach and tell them what they want to hear, even if it means alienating others.

8. The best defense is a good offense. All brands screw up at some point. Maybe your product had a defect. Maybe your customer service rep treated someone badly. Whatever the case, social media can either help you put out the fire or fan the flames. The Trump approach to screw-ups is to double-down on the original claim. After all, you can’t let the facts get in the way of a good story.

Some brands have tried this technique as well. When the iPhone 4 came out, people reported issues with the antenna signal. Steve Jobs’ response boiled down to, "You’re holding it wrong.” And Comcast retaliated to an unprofessional customer service call that got a lot of press by contacting the customer’s employer and getting him fired. In both cases, the companies ended up retracting and apologizing for their initial retorts — so maybe this is one not to follow the Donald’s lead on.

On that note, this may be a good place to wrap up. Indeed, there are many ways you can emulate Donald J. Trump to be “yuge” on social media — but it’s just as important to understand when to not do-as-Donald-do.

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