What does Trump have in Common with FDR, JFK and Obama?

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By William Cawley (@DigiTrey)

Social media are powerful forces that are re-shaping our world. Nowhere is this more evident than in politics.

As seen throughout the 2016 election cycle, President-elect Donald Trump is a master of Twitter by using its short messages to mix truth, emotion, and insults together to damage his rivals. His key strategy is to offer dark ramblings about the current state of the United States and position himself as the only one to solve them. It is a strategy that served him well on the campaign trail.

Of course, presidents and presidential hopefuls using new mediums for political ends is nothing new. FDR was a master of using radio to broadcast his “New Deal” to the American public. President Kennedy mastered television to defeat Richard Nixon in a presidential debate. However, social media are inherently different in that they allow for the audience to communicate back and have a stronger connection with the politician.

For instance, outgoing President Obama, as detailed in Rahaf Harfoush’s book Yes We Did! An inside Look at How Social Media Built the Obama Brand, expertly used social media and grass root efforts to build a voting coalition. Rather than use existing platforms, his team created their own social media websites, such as My.BarackObama.com, to fire up his supporters. His messages, as opposed to the incoming 45th President, tended to be of ones about positive change for the future than mistakes of the present.

These two separate strategies yielded big results for their users. However, this raises an interesting question for the future. Are those who succeed at social media now the ones who will run the world?

Both President Obama and President-elect Trump were propelled to high office due to their force of personality on social media. That makes two presidents in the last ten years that have used the new medium successfully to be elected.

It will also be interesting to see if President Trump will continue his current strategy of using social media. As noted in my previous blog post, the large arsenal of social media accounts that the Obama administration has built of the last eight years is about to be turned over to the Trump administration.

Social media are a political force to be reckoned with. Whether it is a positive or negative force is still to be determined.






Harfoush, R. (2009). Yes We Did! An inside Look at How Social Media Built the Obama Brand. Berkeley, CA: New Riders, Print.

Hess, A. (2016). How Trump Wins Twitter. Slate. Retrieved from http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/future_tense/2016/02/donald_trump_is_the_best_at_twitter_here_s_why.html

Healy, P., & Haberman, M. (2016). 95,000 Words, Many of Them Ominous, From Donald Trump’s Tongue. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/06/us/politics/95000-words-many-of-them-ominous-from-donald-trumps-tongue.html?_r=1

Smith, S. (2014). Radio: FDR’s ‘Natural Gift.’ American RadioWorks. Retrieved from http://www.americanradioworks.org/segments/fdr-radio/

Webley, K. (2010). How the Nixon-Kennedy Debate Changed the World. Time. Retrieved from http://content.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2021078,00.html

Cawley, W. (2016). Handing Over the Twitter Launch Codes: Social Media and Presidential Transition. UNTEagleStrategies.com. Retrieved from https://unteaglestrategies.com/2016/11/13/handing-over-the-twitter-launch-codes-social-media-and-presidential-transition/

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