Trump's Twitter account has become one of the key and essential features of America's 45th president. Trump's no-strings-attached, unabridged tone, in which he directly expresses his thoughts on any and all topics, was likely a great contributor to his election victory in 2016.
Posting numerous tweets each day, Trump himself views the social platform as the way to deliver his positions without the interference or editorializing of mainstream media outlets, many of which have taken a rather apparent anti-Trump stance since the election.
But the 72-year old president, who takes pride in having made his fortune the "old way" (via real the estate business), has not always been that savvy with modern technology. In fact, not too long ago, Trump paid no attention to inventions of today, such as social media and even smartphones, his former social media adviser, Justin McConney, told Politico.
McConney said he was hired by the Trump Organization back in 2011, after he explained the power of social media to Trump.
"I've heard of that," McConney recalled Trump saying. "Isn't that what [then-President Barack] Obama used?"
It was McConney who saw the potential in Trump's colorful personality and persuaded the future president to use the account to create a personal and powerful social media presence.
"I wanted the Donald Trump who is on Howard Stern, commenting on anything and everything," he told Politico.
Well, while Trump did jump on the Twitter wagon, he did so in probably the most awkward way possible. Unfamiliar with smartphones, Trump made McConney print out all his Twitter mentions and wrote his responses with pen and paper, making McConney post them.
While Trump was not familiar with the technology, he "knew PR, and he knew news cycles very well," McConney said. Being media-savvy, Trump called his adviser any time something major happened, so he could immediately post a comment on the event. The way social media activity converted into traditional media coverage was what sold Trump on Twitter in the first place, McConney recalls. And Trump certainly wanted to be in the media spotlight.
And in February 2013, a new tweet appeared on Trump's account. It was actually a polite message, thanking the actress Sherri Shepherd for "nice comments" she had made about Trump earlier.
When McConney saw the tweet, he was puzzled, because he hadn't posted it. He contacted some Trump staffers with the access to the account, and they told him they weren't responsible for it, either.
It was at that moment that McConney realized Trump had posted a tweet himself for the first time.
"The moment I found out Trump could tweet himself was comparable to the moment in 'Jurassic Park' when Dr. Grant realized that velociraptors could open doors," recalled McConney. "I was like, 'Oh no.'"
Twitter, which provided Trump with a steady source of free media coverage, turned out to be an exceptionally powerful tool when he joined the presidential race in 2015. The colorful tone in which he bashed his opponents sparked even more reaction from the media, and we all know how it ended.
McConney himself stopped working at the Trump Organization in 2017. However, he still believes Trump should use his Twitter and even reinvigorate his social media account if he wants to stay competitive during the 2020 election. According to McConney, Trump's Twitter has gotten too bogged down with footage of rally crowds and photos of the president boarding planes. Trump should provide more exclusive content that would generate more positive media coverage, McConney told Politico, and he should "go back to having more of a sense of humor about himself."