Donald Trump may go down as the most controversial president in U.S. history. It seems everything — from his apparent Russian ties, to a government shutdown because of border security, to paying an adult film star hush money — during Trump’s time as president has been an issue, a point of contention and the source of conversation.
People can debate Trump’s policy, his decisions and his morals. There’s little room, however, to challenge the fact that Trump has shaped the office of U.S. president.
He’s done it with his thumbs on a social media app called Twitter.
@realDonaldTrump has 58.8 million followers on Twitter. Hardly a day goes by without Trump tweeting. Sometimes, he announces one of his executive orders, other times he will tweet: “PRESIDENTIAL HARASSMENT!” like he did March 5.
Former President Barack Obama has 105 million followers. His most recent tweets are all from February and have been about gerrymandering, Duke basketball star Zion Williamson and an event with Steph Curry, a professional basketball player when they fielded questions from boys and young men of color about challenges that confront them.
Twitter is becoming a news source for many Americans.
According to a Pew Research Center study, 55 percent of Americans get their news from either Facebook or Twitter (Trump has about 84 million followers between the two sites). 71 percent of Twitter’s users get news from the website. For Trump, Twitter helped win his 2016 election.
“I doubt I would be here if it weren’t for social media, to be honest with you,” Trump told Fox Business Network in an interview on Oct. 20, 2017.
Trump said he uses Twitter and other social media platforms like Facebook because it’s a way for him to directly get his word out, referring to media coverage that treats him “very unfairly.”
In that same interview, Trump called the use of social media “unconventional,” but it’s actually the most conventional part of his presidency to date.
Trump has used social media as a genius. Whenever something goes wrong, he uses several damage-control tactics which only increase his popularity. When something goes right, he makes sure everyone knows about it.
Future presidential candidates should take notes. This is how the president will communicate in the future. I can’t envision the 2020 presidential election featuring radio silence from any candidate.
Some politicians are already following Trump’s example and using social media to connect with their constituents.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) has taken to Instagram live. She answered questions and talked to people while cooking mac-n-cheese on Nov. 9. She’s kept this trend going, calling it a “Cook + Q&A.”
In January, Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass) also went on Instagram live. She announced she was running for president in 2020 then drank a bottle of beer on the video.
As the 2020 election approaches, prepare to see many politicians vying for your attention on all social media platforms. While Trump has used mostly Twitter and Facebook, others will likely turn to Reddit, Snapchat and Instagram.
Trump’s acumen of Twitter has paved the way for future presidents and politicians alike, making one thing clear: social media is key.
Sam Newlon is a senior majoring in mass communications.