Former President Donald Trump’s foray into the world of social media moguls has gotten off to a turbulent start, for sure. As could be expected, the left-leaning media have panned his new Truth Social platform, churning out a barrage of articles aimed at killing it – or at least minimizing its promise – almost before it gets off the ground. But, while it would be inaccurate to describe the project as a stunning success, one shouldn’t write off Truth Social just yet. The upstart has yet to tap into its full potential and could still blossom into a major player just at a time when Twitter and Facebook are beginning to lose ground. The main ingredient of its future popularity could be not so much the overall number of users as the level of engagement among them.
Like everything else Trump has said or done since he first announced a run for the White House, this new venture caused instant hysteria among his political foes. Browse “Truth Social” on any search engine and one will find pages of links to stories about how the platform is already plummeting in popularity, how technical difficulties have plagued it since the launch, and how even – whether true or not – Trump’s children still prefer to use Twitter. And, of course, it is a self-fulfilling prophecy; the very fact that the leftist media have declared war on Truth Social has almost certainly discouraged a great many people from signing up. Many of those would-be users are perhaps waiting for the bugs to be ironed out or for the platform to get its act together, with respect to the long waiting periods potential new members have faced.
Add to this the unavailability to users of Android-powered phones. While Android is the dominant smartphone operating system (OS) across most of the globe, in the United States, Apple’s iOS rules the market. Perhaps that is why the Truth Social app was rolled out to the Apple Store first. The fact that there still is no app for Android is no small obstacle to growth, however. While Apple enjoys a 57.65% share of the smartphone OS market in the United States – according to the website Statcounter – Android is not too far behind with a 42.05% market share, meaning that almost half of America’s mobile phone users have no access to Trump’s platform.
The X-Factor: User Engagement
One encouraging sign for the new app, however, is that it has already attracted some big players in the realm of conservative politics. It is worth adding that its parent company, Trump Media & Technology Group (TMTG), touts it as a “big tent” community that will not censor left-leaning users. Many prominent personalities are reporting a level of engagement among users that surpasses established online communities. Elon Musk, the new largest shareholder in Twitter, recently pointed out that, of the ten most followed Twitter accounts, few of them tweet very often. Musk posed the question, “Is Twitter dying?” And while rumors of Twitter’s death may be greatly exaggerated, engagement is what social media is supposed to be all about. Is there really any value in having an account with millions of followers if one rarely engages with them?
John Solomon’s Just the News recently highlighted a couple of prominent Truth Social users who report great enthusiasm on the platform. Radio host Dan Bongino, who has some 2.4 million Twitter followers and a small fraction of that number on Truth Social, recently posted on both platforms about the Ukraine bio lab story. By the time his post attracted 554 likes and 185 retweets on Twitter, it had seen 1,550 likes and 488 “re-truths” on the Trump platform.
Louisiana Republican Representative Steve Scalise commented on gas prices. Within a day, his post was “liked” 1,132 times on Twitter and was retweeted 411 times, while over on Truth Social, the comment got 3,780 likes and 1,460 “re-truths.” Several other well-known figures have also reported accumulating followers and engagement on Truth Social at a pace that outstrips the audience they spent years building on Twitter.
When Trump’s technology CEO, former Republican Representative Devin Nunes, finally gets it together and launches an Android app – potentially almost doubling the platform’s US user base – conservative social media fans might at long last get what they have been hoping for, and leftists, what they have long dreaded: a popular social media app as intuitive and user-friendly as Twitter, minus the censoring of right-wing opinion.