(This post originally appeared on The Hill)
“I like Trump and his business policies,” the CEO of a growing community bank told me recently when I visited him in Idaho. “But I just wish he would just stop tweeting!”
Should the president stop tweeting? Should he leave Twitter altogether? Aren’t his tweets – and his behavior – overshadowing his accomplishments?
Since taking office, President Trump has tweeted anywhere from approximately 150 to 800 times every month, with the number significantly rising in recent months. His favorite word? “Great,” of course. His most retweeted tweet last year? That would be the one threatening North Korea’s Kim Jung Un. His most offensive tweet? Umm…let’s not go there, OK?
Many small business owners, like the banker in Idaho, just wish he would stop “all that nonsense” on Twitter and keep a lower profile. “He’s hurting his agenda,” my friend says. “He should get off of Twitter altogether.”
But everyone knows he won’t. He’s Donald Trump. He loves the attention. But more importantly his love of Twitter has given him a means to express his opinions on all matters from Russia to Rosie O’Donnell. Most dramatically, his online behavior – whether he intended to or not – has forever changed the way leaders communicate with their people.
Business owners should take note. This is actually a good thing.
Many of Trump’s small business supporters will point to all the accomplishments, which he himself proudly advertises. These accomplishments include tax reform, regulation reduction, more health care options like Association Health Plans and Healthcare Reimbursement Plans, potential trade deals, the relaxation of banking rules and an overall pro-business attitude. They have (arguably) contributed to an (arguably) growing U.S. economy and (arguably) shrinking unemployment rate. So much so that these factors alone could create the wave that lifts him into another term in office.
But it’s his Twitter activity that, to me, has an even greater effect on business. Why?
Because the president is using this platform to engage deeply with his community. Every bizarre, profane, ludicrous and outrageous tweet he makes immediately gets covered in the media. But more importantly is that all his other, less inflammatory (and less ridiculous) tweets get retweeted and liked by hundreds of thousands of his followers. It’s through Twitter that his community gets to know him. He doesn’t do formal press conferences very often or rely on others to translate his intentions. He just puts it out there in his very own, miss-spelled, grammatically incorrect statements, oftentimes in the middle of the night.
Because of this, countless business leaders are finding themselves doing the same.
Google’s Eric Schmidt keeps his 2.3 million followers up to date on tech developments and Google’s activities around the world. Mary Barra, the CEO of General Motors, likes to tweet about new products and the auto industry. Elon Musk, who has 29 million followers, likes to talk Tesla and changing the world. And speaking of changing the world, Bill Gates’ 43 million followers get regular updates on how he’s doing just that. They’re just doing what the president is doing.
Of course, none of these CEOs will credit the president for this. They’ll say they’ve been tweeting for a while. But if you look at the numbers, you’ll find that they’re tweeting more frequently than ever. More importantly, they’ll say that social media has become an increasingly effective way for them to get their message out. They and millions of other small business owners are increasingly using Twitter (and Facebook, Instagram and other social media outlets) as a medium for talking directly and unfiltered to their customers, employees and others in their community. Remind you of anyone?
No, they’re not taunting the leaders of other nations or weighing in on Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart’s relationship. They’re talking about product announcements and company accomplishments while sharing their thoughts and activities with the rest of the world. It may put their attorneys and PR firms on edge, but it’s become a genuine way to build and maintain those relationships.
I credit Trump for a lot of this.
Trump didn’t invent Twitter, and even though many CEOs like my banker friend in Idaho aren’t thrilled, most admit that he’s used it to set an example for how both political and business leaders can, and should, be communicating with the people who want to hear what they have to say. The economy will one day fall into a recession, and the Trump administration will one day (maybe in the not-too-distant future) fall away in place of another administration. But the impact that Donald Trump has had on how business leaders communicate will likely last forever.