Since the turn of the year I can’t escape the feeling that Britain has got even closer to becoming the 51st state of America than ever before: all our lead news stories seem to be about what The Donald will do next.
Why is everyone hanging on his every word? His statements are sometimes so random that we await the next with a kind of morbid fascination bordering on glee! And, it has to be said, that the new President’s reckless roller coaster ride has the world holding its breath.
For a man who has stirred so much controversy, what is the secret of his ‘success’, if you can call it that? Basically, I think, it’s because he has become, if not the first, at least the leading exponent of government by Twitter.
We had the Arab Spring of 2011, which was generated and sustained to a great extent by social media, but that was a populist movement without any obvious leadership. Now, in Trump, we have one with a figurehead.
Like the Arab Spring, Trump’s campaigning unleashed a lot of pent up frustration among Americans who felt they were left without a voice and suppressed by the liberal elite. But it’s not so much what he says as how he says it that has struck a chord with his audience. Love him or loathe him, it can’t be denied that the man has the common touch.
His tweets are indiscreet and inflammatory to say the least, but at the same time they give him an accessibility and approachability that few public figures enjoy. And that’s clearly because the content is his own. You know it comes from the man, not some tame policy guru or spin doctor on the government staff.
When advertisers talk about ‘engaging’ with and having a ‘conversation’ with their customers through social media, this is the kind of intimacy and impact they hope to achieve.
In practice, however, many business Twitter accounts tend to be guarded and conservative on the one hand or banal or irrelevant on the other.
I’m not for a moment suggesting that company tweets should slate the competition or rail against the taxman, however tempting that may be. Nor should they be all seriousness and holier than thou. But they should be sincere, passionate, have something meaningful to say, and demonstrate a rapport with and understanding of their audience. A dash of wit doesn’t go amiss either.
At the end of the day it’s all about ‘tone of voice’ and the essence of a brand, especially in social media, but also on company websites and press, TV and other platforms.
Examples? Well, take a look at the Innocent Drinks Twitter account as an example of how to relate to your audience, keep things fun and topical and throw in a few appetising ads for your product along the way.
Between them, Trump and Innocent could offer you a Twitter master class – although I’m not altogether sure their names should appear in the same sentence!