7 Things Brands Can Learn From Trump's Social Media Strategy

While you may not like those tweets from our president-elect, you have to admit that as a campaign strategy, they worked.

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Managing Director, Brightworks
6 min read
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President-elect Donald Trump was quoted, in November, on 60 Minutes, as crediting social media for helping him win the presidential campaign, and he’s probably right. 

Related: Breaking Down the Tactics and Tools the Presidential Candidates Are Using

"It’s a great form of communication," Trump told correspondent Lesley Stahl. "Now, do I say I’ll give it up entirely and throw [it] out [post-election]? That’s a tremendous form: I pick up -- I’m picking up now; I think I picked up, yesterday -- 100,000 people. I’m not saying I love it, but it does get the word out."

In fact, Trump effectively used social media as a way to bypass the media and “tell the people how it really is” (in his view). And that impulse of his to "tell it like it is" did seem to play a big role in his victory.

So, what can entrepreneurs and new brands on the market learn from Trump's social media strategy and perspective, and what are the takeaways?

1. Brands can stick up for themselves.

Just as Trump sticks up for himself to the general public, your brand can do the same (within reason!). If you receive negative press or have a bad customer experience, you can and should try to rectify the situation and handle damage control in a transparent manner. Brands have the chance to show their true colors on social media. Just make sure the attitude you portray reflects who you are as a brand.

2. Save money.

Trump spent significantly less money than the Clinton campaign and suggested that this was because of the lift he got from his social platforms. Brands can have the same impact if they consistently engage with their audience on social platforms in a timely and informative manner.

JetBlue is a company known to respond online to customer inquiries and complaints in a friendly, fun way, all within in a timely manner. That strategy has been integral in word-of-mouth advertising and in saving the company marketing dollars. 

3. Pay attention to social media indicators.

Social media activity indicated that Trump was likely to win; and the same platforms can show you how your brand is performing, too. Specifically, Trump had the most Google searches and Twitter and Facebook mentions, and online interest was three times higher for him versus Clinton, according to Google Trends.

These indicators suggested how the real population was going to vote, even when the polls said otherwise. Having a proper modelling and analytics program can provide your brand with the same insights.

Related: Tech Tips to Get Rid Of Donald Trump from Your Social Media

4. Real-time speed is important.

Staying current and fresh with your reactions to daily events helps continue the conversation with your followers. Using Twitter, Trump can instantly defend himself or provide clarification for any criticism or world event he is reacting to. Mastering speed and real-time delivery can have the same effect on your brand.

During Super Bowl XLVII, a power outage at the Superdome was the marketing opportunity of a lifetime for Oreo, which responded with a clever ad within less than 10 minutes of the unexpectred event, and prompted a flood of the brand's message to thousands of Twitter and Facebook feeds.

5. Build trust and be authentic.

Millennials don’t buy simply because of a brand name the way boomers used to. The younger set doesn't trust the media the way the boomers used to, either. But access to a brand through social media does help build legitimate trust for it, because the messaging comes directly from the source.

Trump built trust during his campaign by being the same on social media and in person, regardless of how opinionated or brash his responses might be. In that sense, he was the opposite of "traditional" politicians and was ultimately rewarded for that.

6. Think outside the social “echo.”

Biases in politics work the same way as biases in brands. The more you hear one opinion, the more you generally take it as “gospel.” This “echo” effect happens when you continuously hear the same views over and over.

Brands benefit from third-party or influencer endorsements because they have access to a new audience’s echo. Both positive and negative brand feedback will cause a ripple effect within their social group.

7. Let your followers do the heavy lifting.

Trump’s supporters re-tweeted his tweets up to 3.5 million times, creating over $3.4 billion in free media exposure in only 12 months. He uses his supporters and tweets on average 11 times a day to dominate the digital conversation.

Your brand can do the same thing by harnessing the power of your supporters and providing sharable links, videos and actionable content. Denny’s, the restaurant chain, takes an interesting approach to content marketing, which resonates astonishingly well with its audience. Rather than link back to a text-heavy blog on its home page, Denny’s hosts its hilarious breakfast-related memes, GIFs and images on an easy-to-share, prime-for-viral content Tumblr site. Find what content works best for your audience member and give them a reason to share it with others.

In sum, there are many things the Trump win can teach global brands about social media. Trump has shown that he’ll continue to use social media -- certainly during the current lame duck period and then probably once he's sworn in as our next president -- and we should take his win as a symbol that the way he uses it, and no matter how controversial his message, his strategy works.

Related: 5 Ways to Use the 'Trump Effect'

So, regardless of your political leanings, recognize and act upon the fact that there are always lessons to be learned in the ever-changing world of social media marketing.

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