They are the 140-character bursts that helped define the first 100 days of the Trump presidency.
But Donald Trump’s tweets seem to be losing some of their impact.
The president’s traction on his medium of choice has slipped as his tone and button-pushing tendencies have cooled. The number of people engaging with him on Twitter - through likes, retweets, quotes and replies - has gradually declined, according to an Associated Press analysis of his feed and the users who read, react and propel his words throughout the Twittersphere.
The analysis, conducted in partnership with the media analytics nonprofit Cortico, found other clear trends: Men are more likely than women to retweet Trump. Left-leaning users are more likely than right-leaning ones to reply - often with commentary. Volleys with exclamation points or capital letters get more favorites and retweets. Tweets mentioning “Russia” or “fake news” spark far more interaction than those that don’t.
“It is an incredible way for him to communicate directly with the American people, and the world 24 hours a day, seven days a week, right from his fingertips,” says Dan Scavino, Trump’s social media director.
The analysis looked at the 495 tweets from Trump’s personal account - @realDonaldTrump - from his first 100 days in office. Cortico (link), a nonprofit launched from the Laboratory for Social Machines at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab, used information pulled from Twitter users’ profiles, networks and tweets to assess their political leaning, age and gender. The group has developed algorithms to determine a representative sample of users and how they engage with the president.
Anatomy of the top tweets
The tweet that prompted the most responses - including likes, retweets, quotes with comment and replies - illustrates one truism of Trump’s twitter account: Capital letters get attention.
“SEE YOU IN COURT, THE SECURITY OF OUR NATION IS AT STAKE,” he tweeted on Feb. 9, after a federal court blocked his travel ban executive order.
That tweet was liked more than 238,000 times and retweeted without comment 67,000 times, typically signaling support. Users replied - a response more likely to suggest disagreement - roughly 146,000 times.
For all the talk about his tweeting, his numbers are hardly staggering.
Trump’s most retweeted post as president does not come close to matching Barack Obama’s. On Jan. 22, amid broad post-inauguration protests, Trump tweeted, “Peaceful protests are a hallmark of our democracy. Even if I don’t always agree, I recognize the rights of people to express their views.” It was retweeted more than 82,000 times. Obama’s 2012 election night post of “Four More Years” was retweeted 940,000 times.
Other Trump tweets near the top in engagement include “The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!” and “We must keep ‘evil’ out of our country!”
Accuracy has little to do with attention. Trump’s unfounded allegation that President Obama tapped his phone received the second most engagement. Another instant controversy was a tweet following up on his assertion that Sweden had a crime problem, which drew 26,000 retweets from all Twitter users.
Though many of Trump’s most provocative tweets have come in the early morning hours, his overall output is fairly evenly divided between morning, afternoon and evening, the numbers show.
His most tweeted word is “great” followed by a version of “America” or “American” with “news” or “media” third, ahead of “jobs,” according to data provided by Twitter on Thursday. His most commonly tweeted hashtag is #MAGA, the abbreviation for his campaign slogan “Make American Great Again.”
Trump’s official @POTUS account is mostly run by Trump’s social media director, Scavino, and largely operates as a politician’s standard account, predominantly putting out news releases and talking points.
But his long-time @realdonaldtrump account is largely controlled by the president himself. Aides, during the campaign and since he took office, have had varying degrees of success in controlling what he tweets.
There are some signs they’ve had success in toning Trump down.
Before his 50th day in office, a little over 32 percent of his tweets averaged around 60,000 engagements including retweets, replies, and quote tweets. But after day 50, no day has reached that level of engagement. Before then, 60 percent of the days’ tweets got over 50,000 engagements. After, only 3 have - 9 percent.
Why? Some of it may be due to Trump’s recent show of restraint on Twitter, while some may simply be because the novelty of the celebrity businessman in office has faded a bit.
Since the midpoint of the 100 days, Trump’s tweets have featured fewer of his trademark exclamation points and all capital letters. Topics like fake news, mentioned 23 times before day 50, have been mentioned just over 10 times since.
Demographics, partisanship and media
Trump says he prefers Twitter because he wants to work around the mainstream media’s filter.
“When the media takes my message, knows what my message is and then writes it purposely so it doesn’t sound good, I’d rather do Twitter,” he said a few days after taking office.
But Twitter appears to have its own partisan filter.
Reaction to Trump’s tweets break down sharply along partisan lines, with conservatives more likely to retweet without commentary while liberals are for more likely to respond to a tweet and, presumably, disagree.
About 96 percent of those who simply retweet the president’s words are right-leaning, according to the analysis, while about 54 percent of his replies come from left-leaning users.
Verified accounts - often journalists, celebrities, politicians or other public figures - are 70 percent more likely to weigh in on Trump’s tweets by quoting them, interjecting their own voices to the discussion.