Rarely a day goes by without a tweetstorm from President Trump, his messages rife with exclamation points and scathing insults lobbed at his critics. And with his emphatic missives covering everything from Syria to Saturday Night Live, many have jokes that there’s a Trump tweet for literally any topic.
But it wasn’t always so. In a new interview with Politico, Justin McConney, who has the distinction of being the first social media manager for the reality star turned POTUS, spills all the details about transforming Trump into the world’s most notorious tweeter.
McConney, who left Trump’s employment late last year, turned his boss on to the powers of social media after being hired in 2011. McConney first caught the businessman’s attention when, as the son of a Trump Organization employee and a film school graduate, he was asked to make a promotional video for Mar-a-Lago’s golf course managers. The Trump-heavy footage — pulled from old VHS tapes and DVDs — impressed the future POTUS, but it was McConney’s interest in revamping Trump’s social media profile that landed the then-24-year-old a job.
“I’ve heard of that,” Trump reportedly said when McConney spoke of using social media to his advantage. “Isn’t that what [then-President Barack] Obama used?”
Though Trump has technically had a Twitter account since 2009, it’s McConney who is credited with replacing its mundane messages with content that reflected Trump’s larger-than-life personality.
“I wanted the Donald Trump who is on Howard Stern, commenting on anything and everything,” he said.
Working from the lunchroom, McConney leveraged viral moments — such as Trump’s unconventional pizza-eating habits — into opportunities for publicity-generating Twitter content, and he oversaw everything from his boss’s tirades against the likes of Rosie O’Donnell to live tweets of the 2012 presidential debates.
While Trump reportedly kept a close watch over what his tweets said — McConney says his boss either drafted his messages with a Sharpie or dictated them over the phone, with Melania Trump contributing suggestions — it was McConney and his small team who actually did the tweeting.
“He was very old-school back then,” McConney said. “He was not someone who really used computers or went on the internet very much.”
That changed in February 2013, when, armed with his very own Android smartphone, Trump sent his own tweet for the first time. It was a message thanking Sherri Shepherd, then a co-host of The View, for her supportive comments.
Thanks @SherriEShepherd 4 your nice comments today on The View. U were terrific!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 6, 2013
“The moment I found out Trump could tweet himself was comparable to the moment in Jurassic Park when Dr. Grant realized that velociraptors could open doors,” McConney told Politico. “I was like, ‘Oh no.'”
And thus a monster — or Twitter genius, depending on how one looks at it — was created. Trump soon began taking over his feed, sending out tweets that McConney had argued against.
In fact, there’s a lot the former director of social media would change about Trump’s social media presence. McConney thinks Trump should use Instagram more, offer exclusive content, and, essentially, be less rant-y.
“He should go back to having more of a sense of humor about himself,” he added.
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