Many conversations in the media have focused on President Donald Trump’s tweets. Journalists have looked at the negative effects of his tweets, his tendencies on Twitter, and more. Academics have also analyzed Trump’s Twitter account, including one study that outlined how his tweets reflect his psychology.
A new study published Wednesday in the journal PLOS One is a bit different, though, because it focuses on Trump’s tweeting style.
“Although the content of Trump’s tweets has garnered considerable attention, the analysis of the style of Trump’s tweets — their form as opposed to their meaning — has been far more limited and has tended to focus on relatively superficial features, such as misspellings, insults, and non-standard grammar,” the study reads.
Researchers Jack Grieve and Isobelle Clarke, from the department of english and linguistics at the University of Birmingham in England, analyzed over 20,000 Trump tweets that were written between 2009 and 2018. Rather than losing their minds, they managed to find some notable patterns in Trump’s tweeting style.
Grieve and Clarke found Trump has four different ways of tweeting. His tweets fall into these categories:
2. Focused on his campaign
4. Focused on an issue he’s engaged with.
A conversational tweet involves Trump actually, as you guessed it, conversing with another Twitter user. That often means he’s retweeting them and adding a comment, and the way he talks in these tweets is pretty casual.
Campaign tweets tend to be more generic, and they often simply include information about the campaign.
Advisory tweets essentially involve Trump telling people how they should live their lives.
Engaged tweets often involve questions about certain topics of interest.
I know what you’re thinking: You guys are really putting a lot of thought into how he tweets. However, this topic is worth some attention. Though there were many reasons for this, Trump did manage to win in 2016, and the monetary value of his tweets have been scientifically studied.
The authors note that his tweets “generated approximately 5 billion dollars of free media for the campaign” in 2016. Trump may be an objectively ridiculous Twitter user, but his ability to grab people’s attention did have some benefits for his campaign in the last election.
“In many ways, Twitter was Donald Trump’s primary communication platform during the 2016 Republican primaries and presidential campaign,” the study reads. “He used Twitter to communicate with his supporters, the electorate, the media, and the world on a daily basis, with news cycles often being driven by a selection of the most controversial tweets from his timeline.”
It’s certainly the case that Trump’s Twitter habit has also had negative effects on his electability. Ask someone who voted for Trump in 2016 what they don’t like about him, and they’ll often say they wish he’d get off of Twitter. That said, there is certainly something to be learned from all of this when it comes to driving a news cycle through your social media posts. If candidates can be less obnoxious on Twitter but still draw the media’s attention on a consistent basis through what they’re saying on the platform, that might be a winning formula.
Twitter was an integral part of Donald Trump’s communication platform during his 2016 campaign. Although its topical content has been examined by researchers and the media, we know relatively little about the style of the language used on the account or how this style changed over time. In this study, we present the first detailed description of stylistic variation on the Trump Twitter account based on a multivariate analysis of grammatical co-occurrence patterns in tweets posted between 2009 and 2018. We identify four general patterns of stylistic variation, which we interpret as representing the degree of conversational, campaigning, engaged, and advisory discourse. We then track how the use of these four styles changed over time, focusing on the period around the campaign, showing that the style of tweets shifts systematically depending on the communicative goals of Trump and his team. Based on these results, we propose a series of hypotheses about how the Trump campaign used social media during the 2016 elections.