World leaders on Social Media: Helping or Hindering?

Barack Obama the first Social Media President 

After Barack Obama was first elected President of the United States in 2008, he stopped using his personal Twitter handle. Okay, his team stopped posting on his personal Twitter account, and eventually, in 2015, President Obama (the White House social media team) launched his inaugural tweet on @POTUS. Obama is also known as having mastered and transformed the use of social media in political campaigns. Credited as the first “social media” president, Obama started engaging on social initially to raise funds, mobilize volunteering, and get out the vote first to upset Hilary Clinton, and then John McCain, during the 2008 presidential campaign. 

Photo: Charles Ommanney/Getty
Photo: from Daily News https://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/president-barack-obama-hold-twitter-town-hall-july-6-ramps-social-media-presence-article-1.160586

As the New York Times article “How Obama tapped into Social Networks Power” stated in 2008, Obama did not re-invent the wheel – he and his team just created this force using the muscle of social networking to reach audiences, invigorate the electorate and engage people to cast their vote, as is their democratic right. In hindsight, much of Obama’s evolution, on many policies, programs and social media presence, has been largely positive. His presence on Twitter, galvanized America, to engage, to care, to want to reach out and make a statement, to be heard. He rallied people together, and he was diplomatic, self-deprecating and caring, during his presidency as well as during the campaign to return to the White House.

Taken from YouTube: “The Choice” – Obama for America TV ad, 2012
President Donald Trump: A Twitterati?

By contrast, fast forward to 2017. Unless you have been living under a social media rock, you will know, that President Trump is actively engaging on two Twitter accounts, his personal one, and the POTUS one. Okay, his White House team is engaging on the POTUS account. But guess which one has more followers? If you guessed his personal one, you would be correct. So, my question is this: why does President Trump get to keep his personal account, and President Obama did not? My answer may not be factually precise, but here it is: because President Obama’s administration had more integrity for transparency and accountability than President Trump’s, plain and simple. To me, Obama had more deference for his position, than Trump does now. The larger question however, is this: does Trump engaging on his own personal account detract and distract from his job, the one Americans elected him to do? I believe it does. There is not one day that has gone by without several tweets from him, that outrage, and cause the world to furrow their collective eyebrows in horror, dismay, and/or comic rage/relief. Love him, or hate him, The Donald is seeking and getting our attention, big time. On this, he is supremely successful.

From: Donald J. Trump Twitter profile page: https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor
Make America the Center of Attention, Again (MACAA)

Donald Trump is a narcissist and narcissists feed off of attention, good, bad or indifferent. To answer my own question, Trump as POTUS, engaging on his own social media network of choice, Twitter, is both helping and hindering the cause of putting America first. 

From: University of South Australia, https://scitechdaily.com/linguistic-analysis-without-twitter-donald-trump-would-not-be-in-the-white-house-today/

America is usually first in all things: the land of the free, and home of THE brave, the country where many cities never sleep (NYC, Las Vegas). America is arguably the world’s most dominant economic and military power. Likewise, its cultural imprint spans the world, led in large part by its popular culture expressed in music, movies and television. Thus, Trump tweeting up to 36 times a day, further places America, and by extension, the Oval Office, at the top of what is trending. He must love that.

At the same time, the term “Ugly American” can also be said of Trump’s incessant posts related to all things negative. According to the New York Times, when Trump took office back in 2017, in his first 100 days, these were the following 10 themes of the type of tweets he launched:

• Undermining Obama (15 tweets)

• Raising Alarm (40)

• Pressuring Congress (24)

• Discrediting the Media (41)

• Bullying Foreign Leaders (25)

• Singling Out Companies (12)

• Serving as Spin (101)

• Creating Drama and Excitement (38)

• Promoting the Administration (31)

• Making America Great Again (169)

(From: “Cataloguing Every Tweet by the President in his first 100 Days” )

Of the 10 themes listed above, we can say perhaps that the last 3 themes were somewhat positive. So that leaves us with at least 70% of Twitter posts that were negative in nature, and as such, this would indicate that for this reason, Donald Trump being on Twitter, was in fact, hindering. Hindering the good name of the office of the President of the United States and thwarting the efforts of many other people who want to unite all Americans at the end of the 2010s. As we head into a new decade, it is safe to say, that the current administration is doing its fair share of polarizing Americans. Many of Trump’s critics feel that he has undone much of the positive domestic and diplomatic progress his predecessor made during his two terms as President. Additionally, it is also fair to say that Trump’s Twitter activity affects civil society adversely. According to the Brookings Institution, a research think-tank devoted to research, analysis, education, and publication focused on public policy issues, it believes that Trump’s daily tweeting has alienated Americans more than united them, especially those who oppose his policies and sentiments. (From: How the President’s Twitter account affects Civil Society: https://www.brookings.edu/blog/techtank/2017/02/16/how-the-presidents-twitter-account-affects-civil-society/ )

The danger or hindrance in Trump’s Twitter tirades, is that he continues to use his personal social media account to publicly deride and complain about private enterprises that he objects to, or to grandstand and brag about how smart he is. As a sitting president, this is not normal, nor is it acceptable behaviour. 

To many, it appears as though President Trump is out of control, unleashing his personal gripes without any oversight from the White House. However, it is also highly possible, that his personal tweeting is part of a larger strategy crafted by his own White House team, that feeds into the larger, broader policies, programs and services that will ultimately be his legacy when he leaves office. 

What do you think about Trump and his social media habits? Is this the rantings of a deranged and out-of-touch leader, living in his own, egotistical bubble of ‘alternate facts’? Or is this ultimately another strategy by his team to feed into their larger agenda? Oh, and is it Making America Great Again?

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4 thoughts on “World leaders on Social Media: Helping or Hindering?

  1. Amazing blog! It would be also interesting to see how post-Obama and post-Trump politicians in the United States use social media accounts. What I notice is that presidential nominee hopefuls from the Democratic Party are also quite divisive and polarizing in their social media activity – so, closer to Trump than Obama. Obama, it seems, was more cautious and less polarizing in his social media activity, trying to appeal to a more centrist audience.

    • Thanks Alexander for your insight. I agree, many politicians do seem to be quite polarizing, on both sides of the border. Perhaps the Democratic Party candidates’ teams’ strategies are to go on the offensive in order to prop up their hopefuls’ chances to get the top job, but also to increase their social media reach statistics. Times have sure changed and with the rise of social media usage around the world, this is not going away anytime soon, sadly.

  2. Hi! This was such a good read!
    Social media and world leaders is a very “grey area”, because they need to show how connected they are with their audience/country and social media is the perfect platform to have that streamline of conversation. However, sometimes erratic (cough cough….we all know which leader this is) behaviour on social media makes you look EXTREMELY unprofessional. It is baffling that Twitter hasn’t removed past posts or his account. This type behaviour can make a country look weak and divided.

    • Hi there, and thanks. I am glad this was interesting to you. I am also curious as to why Twitter has been so laxed where the President is concerned. Granted, he is the PRESIDENT, but then again, you would think that he and his office would be held to a higher standard??! I do think having Trump use Twitter daily, is both helpful for exposure, but also a hindrance, with many advertisers not wanting to purchase advertising on Twitter for fear of being in that “toxic space”.

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