Trump’s year in social media

Social Media

President Trump’s 2017 was noteworthy for the way he used social media to do everything from rolling out new military policies to announcing his intentions to pardon a felon to his regular attacks on his foes in the media. He used Twitter — and, to a lesser extent, Facebook and Instagram — as his bully pulpit, a tendency that shows no signs of slowing down in the year ahead.

With the help of publishing optimization platform SocialFlow, here’s a look back of some of the president’s most noteworthy moments on social media and how the media responded back.

Trumps top tweets of 2017

According to searches compiled by SocialFlow, these were among Mr. Trump’s collectively most “liked”, retweeted and commented upon tweets of 2017:

“Fraud News”/CNN:

The president’s ongoing tit-for-tat with news organization CNN inspired Mr. Trump’s most popular post on social media with over 300 thousand retweets and almost 600 thousand likes. In it, the president is shown tackling a man with a CNN logo superimposed on his head at a WWE event. The July tweet featured the hashtags #FraudNewsCNN and #FNN.

Donald J. Trump


#FraudNewsCNN #FNN

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The backlash was almost immediate, with many in the media arguing that the president had endorsed inflicting harm on members of the press. But the president still appears unfazed by his critics, retweeting an image during the Christmas holiday weekend of a photo of him with what appeared to be a blood-stained CNN logo on the bottom of his shoe. The word “Winning” is seen overhead.

Lavar Ball:

In a bizarre series of events that grew into an international saga, the president’s involvement in bringing home three UCLA basketball players after their brief imprisonment in China for shoplifting sparked an all out social media war with LaVar Ball, the father of one of the players.

Donald J. Trump


Now that the three basketball players are out of China and saved from years in jail, LaVar Ball, the father of LiAngelo, is unaccepting of what I did for his son and that shoplifting is no big deal. I should have left them in jail!

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The president repeatedly criticized Ball as being ungrateful for the role Mr. Trump played in their release. Mr. Trump had said he raised the players’ detention with Chinese President Xi Jinping during the leaders’ recent meeting in Beijing. The players were arrested and questioned about stealing from high-end stores next to the team’s hotel in Hangzhou, where the Bruins stayed before leaving for Shanghai to play Georgia Tech.

Mr. Trump further fueled the fire after tweeting that he alone had spared the young players from further prison time, and referred to the elder Ball as a “poor man’s version of Don King.” 

Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s pardon:

Despite warnings from White House advisers, Mr. Trump announced his intentions to pardon the former Arizona cop on Twitter. “I am pleased to inform you that I have just granted a full Pardon to 85 year old American patriot Sheriff Joe Arpaio. He kept Arizona safe,” the president wrote.

The president’s move was hailed as a victory by Arpaio himself, tweeting his thanks to Mr. Trump and declaring his incarceration was the result of a “political witch hunt” carried out by the Obama administration.

A federal court said in 2016 that Arpaio’s policy as sheriff of using traffic stops and workplace raids to find suspected undocumented immigrants constituted racial profiling. He was convicted in July for ignoring the order to end traffic patrols targeting immigrants.

Kim Jong Un:

While Mr. Trump has frequently taken to social media to announce domestic decisions, he also uses it to issue international warnings to his adversaries.

Following months of North Korean nuclear provocations, Mr. Trump responded by telling Kim Jong Un that his regime would be met with “fire and fury,” dubbed the leader “little Rocket Man,” and later delivered a stunning rebuke of its growing nuclear missile program on the floor of the United Nations General Assembly.

Donald J. Trump


Why would Kim Jong-un insult me by calling me “old,” when I would NEVER call him “short and fat?” Oh well, I try so hard to be his friend – and maybe someday that will happen!

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An apparent typo on Twitter evolved into one of the the president’s most popular 2017 tweets.

In the president’s original tweet, which has since been deleted, Mr. Trump wrote “Despite the constant negative press covfefe.” Hours later, the tweet became one of the president’s most popular posts to date. He later poked fun at the misstep, tweeting “Who can figure out the true meaning of ‘covfefe?’ Enjoy!”

Donald J. Trump


Who can figure out the true meaning of “covfefe” ??? Enjoy!

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The debate is still open on it’s true meaning, but “covfefe-gate” grew so out of hand, it spawned a piece of legislation proposed in Congress.

Reading the tweet leaves

Taking a look at some of the most viral tweets from Mr. Trump’s feed, SocialFlow CEO Jim Anderson tells CBS News that while the president’s social media style is nothing new for Mr. Trump himself, it’s a big change for the role he currently occupies.

“In general terms, the more provocative your Tweet, the more engagement you’ll get from it. This is not a new phenomenon—’shock jocks’ like Howard Stern proved found success in the approach long ago on radio, using outrageous statements to drive ratings. Both the approach and the medium are new to presidential behavior,” said Anderson.

But Anderson says Mr. Trump has chosen to use this new bully pulpit in a way that is truly unprecedented for a political leader.

“It remains to be seen whether this is an aberration in presidential politics, or a sign of a ‘new normal’ for how presidents are elected, and then govern,” said Anderson.

Anderson notes that similar to then-candidate Trump, the president knows how to best use the social media machine to his advantage.

“The key to his influence isn’t his tweets themselves—it’s the massive coverage that traditional media outlets give to what he says in the tweets,” Anderson adds.

However, SocialFlow found that over the course of the past year, active clicks on tweets about President Trump have in fact tapered off significantly, showing perhaps the tweeter-in-chief’s daily dictations aren’t as effective as they used to be.


“It’s important to remember that the attention of any audience is finite—every person has only 24 hours in a day. We have gotten used to President Trump being able to dominate the news cycle, but even his ability to garner attention is subject to diminishing returns,” says Anderson.

Anderson does note that while 75 percent of the clicks on Mr. Trump’s tweets happened in the first half of the year, the “general trend would be expected for any new President, as attention wanes after the inauguration.” He adds, “Absent extraordinary developments, we’d expect this trend to continue next year.”