Lessons from Trump’s “Hamilton” tweets

President-elect Donald Trump’s use of Twitter this past weekend to seek an apology from the cast of the hit Broadway musical “Hamilton” provides some lessons for businesses and nonprofits seeking social media hits.

Trump tweeted that the cast was “very rude” and had “harassed” Vice President-elect Mike Pence, who was in the audience, by reading a statement saying diverse Americans are “alarmed and anxious” and asking the new administration to “uphold our American values.” Video of the statement went viral, as did Trump’s tweets.

His most popular Tweet garnered more than 150,000 likes, while detractors responded with a hashtag #pencemusicals, through which Twitter users provided new names for musicals that poked fun at Trump and Pence (“Les Deplorables” and “WicKKKed” were among the fictitious names posted on Twitter).

Trump’s extensive use of Twitter to go past the media and speak directly to voters was a boon for his presidential campaign. As former campaign manager Kellyanne Conway told CNN, Trump “is just trying to cut through the nonsense of people telling Americans what is important to them, which we saw through the elections wasn’t true.”

But many are questioning whether it’s appropriate for Trump to continue his prolific use of Twitter now that he’s headed to the White House. The appropriate use of social media is a challenge for most businesses and nonprofits, and Trump’s practices can help provide some guidance of how to master social media:

  1. Strike a Balance: The provocative Tweets that kept Trump in the forefront of the news throughout the election will no doubt create even more controversy as he becomes the leader of the free world. Any business or nonprofit organization must strike a balance between being interesting and being bland. Creating shareable content means it needs to trigger interest. But there’s a fine line between being interesting and turning off consumers or donors. Creating a review process for social media sharing that ensures differing points of view will help strike this balance.
  2. Deliver a Consistent Message: While Trump complained about the cast’s comments, Pence brushed them off, saying “that’s what freedom sounds like.” This inconsistent messaging is confusing and continued the story for another day, taking Trump off the message that he was hard at work on his new administration. While the message a business or nonprofit communicates may be more informal in social media, delivering consistent messages will avoid confusion and help ensure the public fully understands the message you want heard.
  3. Be timely: Trump tweeted just hours after Pence attended “Hamilton” and other Twitter users had shared the video of the cast’s comments. His quick response assured his comments would be part of any news accounts about the event. Businesses and nonprofits need to set up a streamlined social media review process so that they can react quickly to be sure they’re part of the discussion surrounding their products, programs, industries and other topics critical to their work.
  4. Be strategic: While it’s often hard to tell if Trump is being strategic or not, these tweets did help change the subject from his settlement of the Trump University lawsuits, in which students claimed they had been defrauded. He had issued two tweets about the settlement and then shifted to “Hamilton,” which became the hot topic on social media. No doubt, Trump would rather be debating whether the actors were rude or exercising their First Amendment rights, rather than whether he defrauded students at the university bearing his name. By having a clear-cut social media strategy that can be enacted quickly and deliver consistent messages, businesses and nonprofits can create winning communications.

What other lessons can be learned from Trump’s tweets on “Hamilton?” Please share your ideas!


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