The Secret Sauce Behind Donald Trump's Social Media Success

By Barbara Nonas, VP/Director, Corporate Communications, DigitasLBi

Full Disclosure: I am not a Trump supporter. But politics aside, there's one thing everyone can agree on: Donald Trump is a master of social media. And that's thanks in large part to Justin McConney, the 29-year-old who five years ago convinced Trump--who at the time had 100,000 "Likes" on Facebook--that he needed a presence on social media. McConney was no stranger to the Trump Organization; his father has worked there for 28 years.

Given that Donald Trump today has more than five-and-a-half million "Likes" on Facebook, I decided to check out McConney and his strategy.  In a rare public event hosted by marketing website The Drum, McConney, whose title is Director of New Media, spoke to a small industry crowd about his social media strategy.

There's no question that his tactics are, to put it mildly, working. The numbers speak for themselves: in five years McConney increased Trump's Twitter followers from 300,000 to over six million and his YouTube presence from nothing to a dedicated channel with more than 20 million views. His Instagram account has close to one million followers.

How has he done it? McConney may not slice and dice his strategy this way, but here's my takeaway on the 10 ingredients that go into his secret sauce:

  1. Be authentic. (Or at least make it look that way.) To give Trump's social videos an authentic feel, McConney keeps the production values low--he doesn't use professional lighting, a set, or camera equipment. He has Trump speak directly into the camera from his (messy) desk. Social videos need to look like a friend made them--not like a slickly-produced TV spot.
  2. Give your fans what they want. In Trump's case that means controversy--the more outrageous the content, the better.
  3. Tweet multiple times on a daily basis. Content should be spontaneous, not canned. Trump and McConney tweet 20-30 times a day.
  4. Don't post on Facebook more than three times a day. If you do, the posts will get lost.
  5. Make videos short and direct. That's the only way to break through the cluttered media environment. Trump's 15-second political videos on Instagram get so much media attention that he doesn't need to buy ads.
  6. Be part of the action--especially action that's trending. Trump doesn't just stick to politics. He live-tweets major pop culture events like the Oscars.
  7. House all your content on one dedicated YouTube channel. Create a library of everything related to your brand. In Trump's case, that extends from professional videos of his real estate properties to his daughter's shopping advice to his scrappy political Instagram ads.
  8. Spark engagement on a new platform by tying content to a major media event. The first time Trump used Vine, it was to tell Anthony Weiner to stay off Vine. He used Periscope for the first time to announce his candidacy for president.
  9. Experiment. Try new platforms and different kinds of content. The beauty of social media is that you'll instantly see whether your attempts are soaring or sinking.
  10. Move fast and stay lean. McConney posts content almost instantly; he doesn't need to go through a lengthy approval process. He shows it to only one person: Trump.

About the Author

Barbara Nonas is VP/Director, Corporate Communications at global marketing and tech agency DigitasLBi. She has extensive experience helping clients tell their story, build and protect their brand, and differentiate themselves from their competitors.