Much has been made about Donald Trump's use of social media, and this past weekend he fell right into a well-laid Twitter trap.
As somebody who tweets himself (when interns aren't being thrown under the bus), he’s especially drawn to glowing praise. The folks at Gawker knew this, and this weekend succeeded in getting him to retweet a Mussolini-quoting fake Twitter account. The timing couldn’t have been worse for the Republican. It happened while he was fending off questions about an endorsement from former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke.
But Trump brushed off the retweet on Sunday during an appearance on NBC's "Meet The Press."
“I want to be associated with interesting quotes,” Trump said. “Hey, it got your attention, didn’t it?’’
Now, could another politician fall for a similar trap? Sure, Twitter is an Achilles’ heels for a plethora of pols, with the disgraced former Congressman Anthony Weiner being the poster candidate. Any form of communication which is direct with voters and not mediated through staff has pitfalls.
Still, the unfiltered voice of the candidate can draw legions of fans. Here are a few simple rules candidates should take to heart to avoid falling into similar social media traps.
1. Try to vet information before you spread it.
Before you retweet something that sounds good, make sure it’s valid and that the account it’s coming from is valid, too. Especially if your candidate is divisive – then people might be more motivated to set traps.
2. Make sure the person or people running your social media have good judgment.
Too many candidates have had to walk back Facebook or Twitter posts that were not well thought out. In this case, though, there’s not much you can do if your candidate him-or-herself has bad judgment – except maybe take away their passwords and rely on staff to handle social media.
3. Don’t do social media late at night when you’re sleepy – or if you’ve been drinking.
Everyone should know this rule by now, but it's worth repearting. Also, if your candidate is single (or even if they aren’t) they need to be very careful about who they contact.
4. Assume everything is public, forever.
The higher up you go, the less likely you’ll be able to get away with a quick undoing or deleting of a stray social media post.
5. But don’t set up a whole approval process that sucks the life out of your social media and prevents it from being timely.
This is no way to build and retain an audience. Trump, who has more than six million followers on Twitter, is completely unfiltered and his supporters like it that way. Normal candidates will do well to strike a balance.
Laura Packard is a partner at PowerThru Consulting, a Democratic digital strategy firm. She usually tweets in good taste at @lpackard, but her Twitter feed is almost always dictator-free.