Chasing the debate

BY ADRIAN ARIZMENDI

Can’t stop, won’t stop.

Donald Trump is the social media president. Whenever he goes on a tweet storm, replies to his posts explode with passionate throngs of social media warriors from every part of the political spectrum. Naturally, The Tylt is there to follow the debate wherever it leads.

In February, as the Creative Manager of The Tylt, I began engaging with the president’s tweets using The Tylt’s account. I would reply quickly to the president either with a question that was already part of one of our debates, or a question that was on the mind of the public. The threads were then supplemented with videos that either explained an issue or advocated for a certain point of view. Because we don’t advocate for any one side, we embedded media from everywhere, representing various points of view.

Why would anyone reply to Trump? The vast majority of accounts are simply there to either support or criticize the president. Others do it for personal exposure. But few media companies are willing to engage in that space. The risk is that they will end up on one side of the issue — which comes with it’s own set of problems for media brands.

But the space seemed like a natural fit for us, because The Tylt is comfortable engaging with both sides of any issue and we want to provide space for people to express their opinion and confront others who disagree.

The president was already making his twitter replies one of the biggest platforms on social media for debate. But everyone is guarded and ready to defend their turf when they respond. Part of our goal is to show people that they can participate and meet their ‘adversaries,’ even on hostile twitter ground, with a chance to be heard and air their opinions in a way that really counts.

The strategy worked. It proved to be an opportunity for The Tylt to double-down on our mission to engage users, but we also gained exposure— a sort of growth hack for an account of our size. We found that a single tweet thread can easily generate 2 million impressions and half a million engagements.

Hundreds of thousands of people began engaging with us — and by mid-May our Twitter account saw a single day with 5 million impressions and more raw social engagements than Vice, Mic and Fusion combined. The reason for the success, we believe, is that people crave an honest broker when wading through the most intense twitter storms.

By replying to Trump’s tweets with questions that are part of a national conversation, we allowed Twitter users to engage in a space that — unlike a direct reply to the president — allowed for a back and forth and consideration of all sides to an issue. We solicited opinions, posed questions and presented different points of view.

But simply replying was not enough to make our threads visible. There are methods we employ that helps our threads to be among the top replies. The way a thread is crafted is often deliberate and contributes to its success.

We absolutely plan to expand on this for strategy to other public accounts — so don’t be surprised to see us posing questions of other public figures and companies. While this may seem like a ‘growth hack’ (and to some extent it is), it also confirms that honest debate is like water in the desert. People are thirsty for it and we hope to bring it to them.

Adrian Arizmendi is The Tylt’s creative manager. He has previously worked as a producer at AJ+ and a staff writer at Circa.