Donald Trump Twitter fails: 6 lessons for marketers

Trump Twitter gaffs have become a familiar sight, but amusing though they are, what can your brand learn from the tweeting transgressions of the US president?

Trump Twitter


Despite his lofty position as the most powerful man on the planet, Donald Trump Twitter fails have become part and parcel of modern life.

As commonplace as fake news, the US president’s 140-character rants are a one-man demonstration of how not to behave on social media.

Trump joined Twitter in 2009 and marked his arrival with a comparatively low-key tweet promoting a television appearance. His output was moderate at first, but by the second half of 2011 had accelerated to more than 100 tweets per month. By the time he hit the presidential campaign trail in 2016, he was tweeting 375 times per month on average.

His brash style has shocked and humoured in equal measure. According to the Trump Twitter Archive, the president has used the word ‘loser’ 234 times, ‘dumb’ or ‘dummy’ 22 times, ‘stupid’ 183 times and ‘dope’ or ‘dopey’ 117 times.

But apart from holding back on the insults, what can social media marketers learn from POTUS about their own Twitter habits?

1. Check your spelling

With in-built spell checkers and an increasing number of spelling apps available, there’s really no excuse for spelling fails on Twitter. You might think that the most powerful man in the world would take a little more care over his presentation, but there are so many examples of Trump butchering the English language that we’d need several posts to explore them all.

His most famous slip of the thumb generated a frenzied reaction on Twitter, and perhaps illustrated that inventing a brand new word has the power to go viral (though we wouldn’t recommended it).

Twitter is an unforgiving stage on which to make a mistake. Should your brand commit a Trump-like spelling error, the Twittersphere will have no hesitation in leaping on the carcass of your ill-advised tweet and giving it maximum exposure in the process…

Trump Twitter spelling

Takeaway: Spelling mistakes happen to the best of us, and there won’t be a marketing professional out there who hasn’t made at least one. If the worst happens, make a joke out of it; don’t simply delete the tweet and try again because you’ll probably make matters worse. However, you can ensure you’re practically mistake-proof by implementing a robust workflow that will send your tweets past as many pairs of eyes as possible before they’re unleashed on the public at large.


READ MORE: 11 ways to avoid a social media crisis


2. Beware the retweet requests

When you’re in the public eye you’re an easy target – and Donald Trump is easier than most. Celebrities and brands are often sent retweet requests and the vast majority are completely harmless, which makes it dangerous territory because it’s easy to become complacent.

Trump thought he was doing someone a favour by retweeting a photo of a Twitter user’s beloved late parents. Trump duly obliged, unwittingly sharing a photo of Fred and Rose West – two of the most notorious serial killers in British history.

Trump Twitter Fred and Rose West

Takeaway: Treat every retweet request with suspicion, and never retweet without doing your research first. Trump couldn’t possibly have known he was sharing a photo of two people he had probably never heard of, but that illustrates perfectly why it’s never a good idea for a single individual to have control over a Twitter account with a large following. As Trump himself later tweeted, “I guess this teaches you not to be nice or trusting.” Indeed.

3. Don’t create fake followers

A recent study suggested that as many as 15 per cent of Twitter users might not actually be human. The finding further reduces follower numbers to vanity metric status. Your brand might have 100k followers, but have you stopped to consider that 15,000 of them might not be real?

One such user brought more embarrassment onto the president recently. A woman called Nicole Mincey was a supposedly ardent Trump supporter, unusual for a young black woman. Mincey regularly praised Trump on Twitter, with the president himself retweeting her and thrusting her pro-Trump merchandise store into the public eye.

It was all too convenient for some and news site Heavy.com tracked down the real Nicole Mincey, who was none too pleased to discover her identity was being used for political and commercial gain.

Trump Twitter Nicole Mincey

Takeaway: Don’t ever be tempted to create a fake social media account to promote, support or defend your company. The 21st century internet user is far too savvy to buy it and the negative impact of the inevitable outing will far outweigh the potential marketing gains.


READ MORE: 6 examples of social media crises: What can we learn?


4. Don’t be exploitative

No subject is seemingly off limits when Trump is looking to attack his political enemies. Train crashes? Yep. Hurricanes? Why not.

Trump Twitter Amtrak

Trump Twitter Hurricane

Takeaway: Most marketers working in social media wouldn’t dream of exploiting a tragedy for commercial gain, but it does happen. The most infamous case involved a mattress store marking a September 11th anniversary with a decidedly dubious promotion. When it comes to tragedies and disasters, unless your brand is involved for charitable reasons or has some kind of personal connection (ie. an employee is affected), then it’s best to stay on the safe side and keep a wide berth.

5. Double check handles

Twitter handles can admittedly be a minefield, but that doesn’t mean you should pluck a username out of the air just because it sounds right.

Defending his daughter might have been a noble thing to do, but Trump got her handle wrong and ended up mentioning a woman from Brighton, England, who made things worse for the president by cashing in on her 15 minutes of fame to criticise his stance on global warming.

Trump Twitter Wrong Ivanka

Takeaway: If you’re creating a tweet in which you want to mention an individual or company, check, check and check again that you’ve got the right handle. Twitter is full of users whose handles are completely different to their actual profile names, and mistakes are very easy to make.


READ MORE: 5 Twitter case studies to inspire your marketing strategy


6. Don’t argue with your followers

Trump’s Twitter account is full of personal attacks on others, and occasionally he’s even been drawn into real-time tweet-rows. One such occasion occurred back in 2013 but resurfaced when he moved into the White House.

An innocuous tweet about China was seized upon by television producer Danny Zuker – who exchanged 140-character blows with the then tycoon, with Trump quickly resorted to name-calling (a surefire sign of having lost an argument).

Trump Twitter Danny Zuker

Takeaway: The customer is always right – particularly on Twitter. If you suspect a user might be being unreasonable, don’t bite; simply ask them to call or email your customer service team. If their grievance is genuine then they’ll get in touch. If they’re just after a Twitter flame war then your followers will be able to see you did the right thing by asking them to contact you.

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1 comment

  1. Mark Reply

    All sound pieces of advice! The exploitative stuff is the worst. I can’t believe it when I see brands trying to be current by reacting to a disaster, and trying to sell their product at the same time…

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