Trump’s 12-tweets-a-day habit makes him a “social pump,” spreading his influence far beyond his followers

Hail to the Tweet
Hail to the Tweet
Image: Reuters/Lucas Jackson
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

US president Donald Trump’s high-level of activity on Twitter—an average of 12 tweets a day since he joined the service in 2009—has a lesson for all tweeters. By sending lots of tweets, it actually extends his voice far beyond his 21.8 million followers.

The frequency of social media activity is a critical factor in how ideas are spread, according to new research from a team of UK and Israeli business professors. Links and videos distributed by a high-volume tweeter like Trump–whom they dub a “social pump”—will be retweeted 50% more often than the same content from another individual with the same number of followers, according to one study.

Among other world leaders, for example, Indian prime minister Narendra Modi has also been on Twitter since 2009 and has more followers (26.6 million) than Trump. But with only 13,800 tweets in eight years, he has far less of a presence than Trump and his 34,400 tweets.

(Another contrast: pop stars Katy Perry and Taylor Swift, who combined have nearly 180 million followers, have collectively tweeted fewer than 12,000 times.)

Social pumps carry more weight because their followers view their posts as being fresher and they’re more likely to retweet them as a result, according to the researchers. The newest content carries the most currency, and retweeting enhances the users standing on social media, while tweets perceived as stale won’t be shared because there’s nothing to be gained from passing on older tweets.

That analysis doesn’t fully explain Trump’s outsized presence on Twitter because it ignores the content of his tweets. Most politicians try to maintain a dignified official persona on social media, and their messages can have a painfully careful tone. According to leaked emails, the Hillary Clinton campaign debated for 12 hours over the content of a single tweet about the minimum wage.

Not so with Trump, whose posts can be intemperate, coarse, and vain. His outrageous tweets have become part of his brand that his fans appreciate, and are eager to share.

In fact , when his tweets take on an even-handed and judicious tone, they’re assumed to written by someone else. (Tweets from the official @POTUS account are written by Trump’s director of social media Dan Scavino.)

The researchers’ findings have implications for other politicians hoping to mimic the success of Trump, and for anyone looking to extend their reach on Twitter: to begin, tweet more. Much more.