Donald J. Trump winning the U.S. presidency was a shock to the traditional media and anyone who believed the headlines, polls and ‘expert’ views. Most of which claimed Clinton had it in the bag.
The mainstream media were sure that Clinton had won it before election night. Results proved otherwise and on 8 November 2016, Trump would now be referred to as President-Elect.
It doesn’t matter whether you believe Trump is the devil spawned as “literally Hitler” or a breath of fresh air required to “drain the swamp.” What’s important is that, on the run-up to the election, the vast majority of Western media were biased towards Clinton and it was reflected in their reporting.
Even now, three months in, most media take an anti-Trump stance. Just follow mainstream journalists on Twitter to see they don’t try to hide their disdain for the president.
Likewise, before and after the election, Trump does not hide his contempt for what he calls the “fake news media” either.
A public figure and especially one running for office should not attack the credibility of the mainstream media. This is (usually) PR 101.
Yet, despite this, Trump still won when everything was against him on paper. So how did he manage to rip the rulebook up and win? There are three reasons.
- Trump’s brash and unapologetic promise to Make America Great Again resonated with many U.S. citizens.
- Trump was seen as an antidote to the global elite at a time when levels of trust among governments, business and media are at an all-time low.
- Social media in politics finally come of age. It was a dirty political war but social media is where news and memes were created. Created by influencers and shared by millions of supporters.
Point 3 is where we learned that the traditional media has lost its strong-arm grip on dictating the news agenda. This has been brewing for a long time.
Obama winning in both 2008 and 2012 were claimed to be elections that were fought and won online but it turned out neither weren’t.
The data showed on both occasions it was the TV debates that were the most influential in helping people decide who to vote for. Social media was part of the mix but it wasn’t the dominant medium.
The 2016 elections were different altogether. The tipping point had been reached and then breached.
It was the year that social media from a political standpoint truly come of age. It was the year that officials, online influencers, activists, trolls, bots and a host of other parties fought out a battle of information in the form of memes, hashtags and fake news. It was the year when people got their news from sources other than the mainstream media. Election campaigning will never be the same again.
What was also an important factor in this was Trump’s use of social media. He’s not a politician by trade and although an entrepreneur he is also a TV celebrity who for years has used social media to comment on politics.
Trump had 2.94 million Twitter followers on the day he announced he intended to run for president. These followers were already active and engaged through years of using the platform promoting his business activities and commenting on politics.
This is a good start on a long and arduous campaign and as the data shows above his follower count grew exponentially.
Trump’s ready-made social media presence has given him a platform to retort any news articles he doesn’t agree with. It also allowed him to attack the competition using memes like “Crooked Hillary” and calling Jeb Bush “low energy”.
Trump’s online support base ran with these memes amplifying the message further. The Clinton campaign tried later in the election but were unsuccessful. This use of memes and persuasion is why persuasion experts like Scott Adams has called Trump “the master persuader.”
Social media is not going away. In fact, it’s becoming more advanced and influential. If you aren’t building your own platforms now you need to start.
Social media continues to grow as traditional media declines. If you seek some form of power or position yourself as a thought leader you should be building a presence on social media. If you’re in business, politics, or an industry where you may have to defend your reputation start now if you haven’t already.
Blogs remain influential. If you have a gift of the written word and have something valuable to say blogging can establish you as an authority. Although people are increasingly starved for time they still love to read punchy and engaging stories. If your writing is controversial you can be de-platformed from third-party sites like Twitter, unlike a WordPress blog which you own.
Video is becoming the dominant medium. If you have charisma on camera then look at developing your own produced and live video content for YouTube, Facebook and Periscope. Look at the number of views and subscribers some YouTubers get to see that people love consuming content by video.
Podcasts continue to grow in popularity. Look at how popular Joe Rogan’s podcast is. As humans we’ve communicated via speaking and listening much longer than we have writing and reading. We’re evolutionary conditioned to take in information this way. It’s easy to put a podcast on and workout, go for a walk or even a run. It’s a passive form of information absorption.
Twitter is in financial trouble but is still popular. If you’re interested in engaging in the day-to-day of politics there is no better platform than Twitter.
I’ve been writing online for over ten years but with this blog I’ve essentially started from scratch. That doesn’t matter though as I’m in it for the long-term. I look at my old writings and I’m embarrassed. This is a good thing as it shows both my thinking and my writing have developed.
I plan on using video more and starting a podcast. I’m assuming that both will take some time to grow but it’s a time investment I’m willing to make.
I’m in for the long term – the next ten years at least – because if it’s anything like the last ten years it will be a completely different media world.
The best time to start growing a following was ten years ago. The second best time is now.