How Trump's Tweets Have Changed in 100 Days as @POTUS - NBC 10 Philadelphia
President Donald Trump

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How Trump's Tweets Have Changed in 100 Days as @POTUS

"He’s essentially split himself in two, and he has two strikingly different tones," one social media expert said

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    How Trump's Tweets Have Changed in 100 Days as @POTUS
    Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images, File
    In this Jan. 27, 2017 file photo, the Twitter Inc. accounts of President Donald Trump, @POTUS and @realDonaldTrump, are seen on an iPhone arranged for a photograph in Washington, D.C.

    President Donald Trump is known for his quick-fire tweeting, a habit he believes helped him win the election. But as his term progressed, the number of likes and retweets each post received started to fall.

    As he approaches his 100th day in office, @realDonaldTrump's rate of interactions is about a quarter of what it was on the week of his inauguration, according to data from CrowdTangle, the social media-monitoring platform. The official @POTUS account's interaction rate is about one-eighth of what it was the week of Jan. 20.

    While the drop-off in likes and retweets, known as engagement, may seem like a blow for someone so committed to winning, social media experts say it's unsurprising.

    "The dust is settling on social media" as people are winding down after a social-media frenzied election, said Jennifer Grygiel, an assistant communications professor at Syracuse's Newhouse School of Public Communications. 

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    Despite a fall in interactions, the following for Trump's two accounts has continued to grow, by a combined 27 percent — though the rate they've grown has also slowed down as he settled into the White House. Today @realDonaldTrump has 28.4 million followers, while @POTUS has 16.8 million followers.

    @realDonaldTrump's most popular tweets as president all came in the first few weeks of his presidency — his most popular remains a Jan. 22 tweet noting the right to peaceful protest after the Women's March on Washington. (@POTUS tweets get much less engagement than Trump's personal account.)

    Since then, most tweets have had much less engagement. The most popular tweet from March, in which he called Barack Obama a "Bad (or sick) guy!" and alleged without evidence that his predecessor tapped his phones at Trump Tower, received the 25th most likes and retweets since Jan. 20. April's most popular message wished "Happy Easter to everyone!" and was his 25th most popular as president.

    On average, the accounts collected a combined 2.14 million interactions each week since the inauguration, according to the CrowdTangle analysis. Interactions with @realDonaldTrump spiked the week after the inauguration, while those with @POTUS spiked around his late-February address to Congress. 

    The decline in interactions isn't necessarily indicative of an unsuccessful administration, Grygiel said.

    "People are moving on with their lives, and also just consuming updates about the new administration by way of more traditional means, such as reading stuff that's published by journalists," she said.


    Engagement could be falling because people find his tweets to be less helpful, according to Tom Hollihan, a communications professor at the Annenberg School of Journalism at the University of Southern California.

    "One gets a sense even his hardcore supporters think [his] tweets are less helpful to his cause," Hollihan said, based on polling he's seen. 

    Two-thirds of millennials, consummate social media users, found Trump's tweeting to be inappropriate, according to a Harvard Kennedy School Institute of Politics survey conducted in March. A January NBC/WSJ poll found that nearly 70 percent of Americans thought Trump's Twitter habit was a bad idea.

    The White House didn't respond to requests for comment for this story.

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    The president's tone varies greatly between his Twitter accounts, said USC professor Hollihan and Grygiel, the Syracuse professor. They had different explanations for why.

    The @realDonaldTrump account frequently talks about the news cycle and "fake news" — something that isn't usually discussed on the @POTUS account, according to data that Grygiel collected through Sysomos, a social media analytics company.

    Other popular words on @realDonaldTrump include "great," "big" and "Trump." @POTUS frequently mentions @realDonaldTrump — a sign of cross promotion, Grygiel said — along with "POTUS," "VP" and "White House," according to her analysis.

    Hollihan said the @POTUS account is clearly being run by his advisers, while the @realDonaldTrump account is run from the president's cellphone.

    But Grygiel said she believes Trump has split his time between his personal and official accounts, a strategy she calls "brilliant."

    "He’s essentially split himself in two, and he has two strikingly different tones," Grygiel said.

    Grygiel likened Trump's tone on @realDonaldTrump to that of "a mafia boss" — it appeals to the part of his base that wants him to be more aggressive. On the other hand, @POTUS has a more diplomatic tone she believes appeals to people outside of his base.

    "It’s a really amazing strategy," Grygiel added. "I think he's essentially pandering to two populaces in this country."

    Hollihan doesn't believe there is much of a strategy, and that Trump's tweets seem to sow confusion among his advisers and cabinet.

    "I think instead what we see is that he's continuing this set of practices that seemed to work for him during the campaign," when Trump's reactiveness to news developments dominated his feed. "In fact, he's conducted himself in the first 100 days of his presidency exactly the same way he sought to conduct himself during the campaign."

    Trump seems to tweet about a series of different issues every day in the White House, like health care, tax reform or renegotiating NAFTA, Hollihan added, rather than picking one to focus on so he can rally public and congressional support.

    As for Trump's predecessor, Grygiel said there's no way to really compare Trump's Twitter habits and Obama's. Twitter and Facebook "really came of age" when Obama was in office, she said.

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    "Social media was something Obama had to adopt and grow over the eight years he was in office," Grygiel said. "He was probably one of the first presidents to hand over large-scale social media accounts to a new administration."

    Hollihan said Obama used Twitter in a more reflective way.

    "Nothing about Obama's temperament suggested he acted without...reflection, and yet that's what defines Trump’s use of social media," he said.

    Both presidents' Twitter habits are vastly different, both in how often they tweeted and in content. Obama occasionally tweeted from his @POTUS account to comment on policy or current events, such as when the Chicago Cubs won the World Series.

    Trump, on the other hand, has tweeted nearly every single day since taking office. He tweets from @realDonaldTrump five times per day on average, according to CrowdTangle data. @POTUS sends out three tweets per day. 

    "This is pretty remarkable that we have a president who's so willing to reveal that he is influenced by the last thing he hears on TV, or reads," Hollihan said.

    J. Scott Applewhite/Bloomberg via Getty Images