How Trump Won or Why You Need to Wake Up Now


As a former member of the mainstream media for 25 years and now a digital marketing strategist, I see things that traditional media outlets have missed and continue to miss. The polls were wrong, Hilary didn’t have a clear message, the Russians hacked into the DNC, and 49-51% of registered voters stayed home. Those facts are accurate but that’s not the whole story.  Those reasons don’t credit the Trump campaign for understanding how the general public consumes media and how to measure that consumption, adjust content, and build a larger audience in the digital age.  The real reason Trump won is that the Democratic Party in general and the Clinton campaign specifically missed the social media ‘boat’ almost completely.  There were three main factors that contributed to Trump’s rise to power:  1.  Twitter, 2. Breitbart News, and 3. Extensive manipulation of the ‘blogosphere’.

1. Twitter

Knowingly or unknowingly, Trump’s outrageous 140 character Tweets were consumed and shared across the ‘blogosphere’ so often that they appeared real to many Americans, humorous to many others who frankly didn’t believe he could get elected, and collectively shared by all. Love him or hate him, everybody directly or indirectly pushed his message. In many cases, shares and reTweets of Trump related posts were used by millions of Americans and a few interested Russians to promote their own agendas.  He was trending so they jumped on the bandwagon.

2.  Breitbart News

Steve Bannon’s Breitbart News positioned itself to carefully target an audience online which they found in the Midwest US.  Then they measured engagement with this alt right movement and adjusted content to get the biggest reaction from them.  That effective targeting allowed them to ignite a passionate, disenfranchised, white, Midwestern, middle class that the mainstream media and pollsters almost completely missed. This passionate fan base was stoked throughout the campaign and played a key role in Trump’s rise in middle America.

3. Extensive manipulation of the ‘blogosphere’

In 2006 Trump’s son in law Jared Kushner, a real estate mogul who like Trump is the son of another real estate mogul, purchased the New York Observer, a tabloid magazine.  Kushner then converted the print newspaper, which will cease publication this month, into Observer Media, a digital content marketing firm that offers its services as a native advertising outlet for clients.  We’ve discussed native advertising in previous posts.  What Vox Communications knows and what Kushner has already learned is that by pushing the same message over and over again through multiple outlets, people begin to believe the message, then they share it and become unwitting bearers of that message.  Because the general public is too busy to check the source and because they don’t really care if it’s true or not they buy in and share it because at the very least it’s entertaining. When Kushner took the reigns of the Trump Campaign digital marketing strategy he used detailed analytics through a company called Deep Root to determine where the target audience was and what messages were resonating with them. In other words, he used compelling original content to generate engagement, measured that engagement, and then adjusted the message to better connect with them. What we do only on a bigger scale.

When the campaign started to reach a fevered pitch in the summer, Vox Communications set up monitors to measure how the Clinton and Trump campaigns reached out to supporters.  We signed up for both. Our very informal study revealed a staggering disparity. Kushner employed a team of 100 bloggers, SEO, and social media staff to push a message almost 24-7, and Trump statements allowed for comments and replies.  This method of building an online community allowed them to convert favorable comments into email addresses.  The Clinton campaign and the DNCC barraged us with so many spam-like emails, in many cases with the same message only from different sources. Our inboxes were inundated and it was annoying.  In fact, if you look at total traditional media spend, TV and Radio, Clinton crushed Trump.  Problem was that’s not where the battle for hearts and minds was being fought.

Two or three years ago after we made a presentation at a networking event, one of the members stood up and laughed off Twitter saying he wasn’t a “Twitterer.” At another event a prospect told me with a straight face that he thought the internet was a fad.  I’m sure Henry Ford heard a few statements and a few laughs like those. These statements are endemic of the arrogance that traditional media and the pollsters have about their take on the country and their complete and utter failure to recognize what Bannon and Kushner had tapped into. Virtually every Sunday throughout the election, I watched NBC’s Meet the Press host Chuck Todd entertain pundits from both parties as well as ‘independent’ media types who disparaged the Trump campaign and its efforts. Every Sunday they joked about him and every Sunday they talked about how soon the wheels would come off and this would end.  They weren’t “Twitterers” either.

So what exactly is the lesson here? There are four:

1. The way most people consume media has changed and traditional media outlets are just now getting the message.

2. The way we measure this new form of consumption is far more accurate than media ratings and traditional media polling.

3. If you are trying to connect with fans, supporters, customers, prospects, leads etc. you have to go to where they are, Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, Google, YouTube, Snapchat, Pinterest, Instagram, etc.

4. With the right tools you can be your own media outlet.

You’re either in the game or you’re out of the game. Now more than ever it’s important to learn these new rules and play by them before you get played.  You need to wake up now and begin to own yourself, your brand, and your service online before someone who has a fraction of your experience, quality, and know-how steals your message from you in a hail storm of 140 character Tweets and fake news stories pushed through Facebook.

Some footnotes:

  • Russia’s presence is all over social media especially Facebook and YouTube.  They appear as funny humorous cat, dog, truck, and road rage videos among others.  “RT” in black letters on a green background is who they are and if you search for them they will come up.  I highly recommend that you not visit their site and certainly do not click or download anything from that site.
  • To check the source of any news article visit their main website, scroll to the bottom, select ‘Terms and Conditions’ to find the outlet’s legal name, then search them.  We followed many Facebook posts to Russian related websites based offshore including Crete.
  • This is the Forbes story on Jason Kushner.  His home address is 666 Fifth Avenue.

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