Donald Trump’s viral tweets and his centrality to the American conversation have made him vastly the largest force on Twitter — 10 times larger in terms of conversations than the entire Kardashian clan, according to new data — giving him unprecedented leverage over a social platform that, as it struggles as a business, remains central to news and politics.
Trump’s emergence hasn’t helped Twitter’s core metrics, but his dominance on the platform does raise an existential question for its leaders: What happens to Twitter if he should suddenly leave?
Trump's Twitter dominance becomes clear when you look at how often he’s discussed compared to other celebrities and world events. Between Dec. 5, 2016 and Jan. 5, 2017, Trump’s name was mentioned 42.7 million times on Twitter, according to an analysis of Twitter’s “firehose” data by social marketing platform Spredfast. That’s more than 10 times the entire Kardashian clan, whose names were mentioned 3.8 million times during the same period despite a combined 100 million+ followers compared to Trump's 19 million. Trump’s 42.7 million mentions also dwarfed those of Aleppo (7.6 million), and the 2.9 million combined mentions of kittens, puppies, cats, dogs.
“Trump’s numbers are in another stratosphere when we compare him to anyone or anything that has traditionally been the gold standard for ‘winning the internet’,” Chris Kerns, VP of research and insights at Spredfast, told BuzzFeed News.
Trump’s Twitter presence extends well beyond the platform, giving the company free marketing on a grand scale. His tweets, often fired off in the early morning, regularly suck the air out of the news cycle, putting the Twitter brand in front of millions of potential new users.
But while those tweets have driven dozens of news cycles, they haven't done much for Twitter. Indeed, according to third party data reviewed by BuzzFeed News, the Trump Twitter spectacle has not coincided with any material change in the core metrics used to measure Twitter's success.
During the company’s last earnings call, Twitter CFO Anthony Noto said, “There's no noticeable impact that we've seen from the elections.” And since the election, Twitter hasn't experienced a material upward trend in daily active users, downloads, or total time spent in its app, according to App Annie, an app analytics company which reviewed panel data on hundreds of thousands of US iPhones and Android handsets. The data analytics firm 7ParkData also found no clear trend in increased Twitter usage since the election, though it did show an uptick in logins from those who have the app.
So while Trump has commandeered a vast swath of Twitter's attention, he’s unlikely to "save" the platform, as some are suggesting. "The company could benefit from its most talked-about user’s ascent to the White House," The Guardian argued last week in a story headlined "Can Donald Trump save Twitter?"
While Trump's Twitter presence isn’t helping the company, his sudden departure from the platform could hurt it, creating an unfillable-by-anyone-else void. When he assumes office, Trump will almost certainly be pressured by national security advisors to scale back his personal use of Twitter as his account will likely be a particularly tempting target for hackers.
Twitter declined comment.
Twitter’s lack of a boom following its biggest gift yet — a president-elect addicted to its service who posts inflammatory tweets with regularity — is the clearest evidence to date that the company's platform may have hit an insurmountable wall. Twitter has a lot going for it. It’s a perfect platform for watching news unfold in real time. But that’s something only certain people find interesting, and if Twitter can’t sell that promise with Trump, it’s hard to imagine it ever will. Because as the metrics above show, even with the president-elect of the United States sparking endless tweets by trolling Arnold Schwarzenegger for his Celebrity Apprentice ratings, disparaging national security efforts, and taunting North Korea over nuclear weapons development, Twitter's appeal remains limited.
That said, Twitter is currently making over $2 billion a year with a user base of about 317 million monthly active users. Yes, the company is struggling with user growth. And slowing revenues. And leadership turmoil. But those were also its struggles long before Trump announced the presidential bid that would land him in the White House. If the data shows that Trump isn't "saving" Twitter, perhaps it's because Twitter didn't need this kind of "saving" in the first place.
Alex Kantrowitz is a senior technology reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in San Francisco. He reports on social and communications.
Contact Alex Kantrowitz at email@example.com.
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