Donald Trump is – finally – getting into the social media game.
After a series of fits and starts, Trump announced the formation of TRUTH Social on Wednesday night – an effort, he insisted, to “stand up to the tyranny of Big Tech.” Posts will be called tweets TRUTHs and Trump said he is “excited to soon begin sharing my thoughts on TRUTH Social and to fight back against Big Tech.”
This is a uniquely terrible idea that will, almost certainly, fail. And there’s plenty of reasons for that!
1. Twitter already exists. Know that whole axiom about not needing to reinvent the wheel? Well, Twitter already exists – and has more than 200 million users. There does not appear to be significant clamor in the general population for another micro-blogging website – even though Twitter is far from perfect. Then there’s this: Trump sent his first tweet on May 4, 2009. (“Be sure to tune in and watch Donald Trump on Late Night with David Letterman as he presents the Top Ten List tonight,” it read.) Which means that he had 6 years to build up his presence on the social media platform before he started to use it – aggressively – to run for president in 2015/2016. He was a known commodity with lots and lots of followers. He wasn’t starting from scratch. With TRUTH social, he will be.
2. The conservative social space is crowded (and not doing well): Remember how Parler was the new Twitter for conservatives? Well, after a very brief surge in downloads in the wake of the January 6 riot at the US Capitol (and Twitter’s decision to ban Trump), the app basically disappeared in terms of relevance. “According to data from Sensor Tower, Parler downloads went from 517,000 in December  to 11,000 in June ,” reported The Verge in July. Then there is Gettr, a Twitter clone launched by Trump associate Jason Miller. Within days of launch, hackers were able to take (and publish) email addresses from 85,000 of its users. “Gettr, the latest pro-Trump social network, is already a mess,” declared TechCrunch. While TRUTH Social does have something that neither Parler nor Gettr had or have – Donald Trump – it’s still not clear that the conservative social media universe is large enough to support one of these products much less 3.
3. Donald Trump isn’t president anymore. Make no mistake: Trump is still the most high profile and powerful player in Republican politics. But, since being banned from Twitter, Facebook and You Tube, his ability to steer coverage has been significantly lessened. As the Washington Post’s Philip Bump noted in April:
“[Trump’s] Google search interest was lower than at any point since June 2015, as was the amount of time he was seen on cable. The networks were covering him far less, down to the point reached last year when the pandemic overtook Trump in the national attention. Besides that, the average mentions of Trump in March were back to the levels seen in November 2015.”
His attempt to start a post-presidential blog with grandiose ambitions ended with a whimper in June, shutting down for good. As The New York Times put it in June:
“Mr. Trump had become frustrated after hearing from friends that the site was getting little traffic and making him look small and irrelevant, according to a person familiar with his thinking.
“The site, which cost a few thousand dollars to make and was put together for Mr. Trump by a company run by his former campaign manager Brad Parscale, was intended to be an online hub for supporters to see statements issued by the former president and communicate with him.”
To be clear: Some people will consume whatever Trump does. But that group isn’t large enough to launch a successful social network. Not even close.