Analysis of Donald Trump’s Communication Style on Twitter between 2009 and 2018
According to Clarke and Grieve (2019), “the claim that social media was integral to Trump’s campaign has been supported by several independent studies. Most notably, it is estimated that coverage of Trump’s Twitter account (@realDonaldTrump) generated approximately 5 billion dollars of free media for the campaign.” Despite the existence of negative adjectives and logical fallacies in Donald Trump’s tweets, his tweets always managed to attract considerable attention. Donald Trump’s way of tweeting is considered unique and attributed to his growing popularity and winning the 2016 presidential election. The frequency of his tweets on the account varied greatly throughout the day. He sent his tweets mostly between around noon and 10 PM and was most active at around 2AM. Another notable thing is that he sent tweets from different devices, an Android and iPhone. Researchers believe that more than one person besides Trump were sending tweets from the devices. After analysis of grammatical co-occurrence patterns, the authors concluded that there was four main dimensions of stylistic variation in Donald Trump’s tweets between 2009 and 2018. The major shifts in his style align to important points in his time including the 2012 birtherism controversy, 2012 presidential elections, declaration of presidential bid in 2015, republican nomination in 2016, and finally his inauguration in 2017.
Clarke and Grieve (2019) says that trump’s Twitter style shifted depending on his intended audience. That he became more informal and controversial when he was appealing to the Republican base and users who shared his political views. Most of trump’s audience during the primaries preferred informal, unguarded and outspoken style. But to attract more than just the Republicans, Trump shifted his style during the 2016 general elections to win over the support from independents and moderates.
The second style that Trump employed was deliberate and sustained campaigning, and this was from trump and his campaigning team. They used a direct and unapologetic form of self-promotion. They sold Trump with his earlier personas i.e., celebrity and Businessman because it gave him an advantage in the 2016 election. His prior personas helped him standout and portray a confident, authentic, and distinct online persona. He presented a new era different from the traditional forms of political discourse and it attracted new voters.
The third style Trump used was countering critical coverage of the campaign by disengaging from other viewpoints. Trump and his team ignored his critics' attacks and focused on selling his agenda by doubling down on his controversial views. When caught in controversy, Trump tended to minimize engagement with the controversy and rather focused on attacking the opponents. It was an effective means of maintaining his position and keeping his base of support from disintegrating.
The fourth thing that Trump did was finding a balance between using Twitter for criticism and promotion. He wrote tweets that were highly critical in style and often attacked people for their past and current action. Trump actually ran a more positive campaign than Clinton in ten days before the election. He used a more positive words and managed to generate higher positive sentiment around the campaign. This was how Trump managed to undermine all the negative media coverage. We can conclude that Trump shifted his communication style on Twitter based on his persona and according to this article, it is evident that he changed his style of communication based on his campaign goals.
Clarke, I., Grieve, J. (2019). Stylistic variation on the Donald Trump Twitter account: A linguistic analysis of tweets posted between 2009 and 2018. PLoS ONE 14(9): e0222062. https://doi.org/10.1371