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Meet Donald Trump's Twitter Whisperer

Justin McConney advises Trump to be Trump on social media.

When Donald Trump tweets, the nation’s political press snaps to attention.

That appears to be the essence of the Republican front-runner’s strategy on Twitter, where he throws out rhetorical red meat (in 140 characters) that journalists snap up — as Trump did today, when he indirectly called Fox News personality Megyn Kelly a "bimbo" before dubbing her a journalistic "lightweight."

So, who informs Trump’s strategy? Meet Justin McConney, a 29-year-old who previously worked as an assistant editor to the Trump-owned Miss Universe and Miss USA beauty pageants in 2009 and, later, worked on Trump’s reality TV show, "The Apprentice." McConney is the son of the Trump Organization’s controller, Jeffrey McConney, and a graduate of Manhattan’s School of Visual Arts.

Justin McConney/LinkedIn

When McConney joined the Trump Organization in February 2011, the company’s billionaire founder had a surprisingly modest social media following, given his penchant for saying provocative things that grab attention. Trump had a mere 300,000 Twitter followers and just 100,000 on Facebook.

Today, those numbers are befitting Trump’s stature: 5.9 million followers on Twitter, 5.5 million people who’ve "Liked" his Facebook page and around one million on Instagram.

McConney didn’t respond to our request for an interview. However, he told the marketing and advertising publication The Drum that his strategy has been simple: Be authentic and "give your fans what they want." Sort of the contemporary, digital twist on "let Reagan be Reagan."

"As a fan of Mr. Trump, I was always fascinated listening to him speak on various broadcasts over the years on so many different subjects, from business to entertainment to politics," McConney told the publication. "I suggested to him that we should bring that to social media."

In December, after a mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., left 14 people dead, Trump called for a ban on all Muslims entering the country.

In September, Trump used Twitter to promote his provocative immigration stance — the centerpiece of which is to build a wall along the Mexican border.

Trump used the social media platform to espouse some rather unconventional theories about global warming.

Twitter also has become his platform of choice for attacking women — a practice that predates his current hostilities with Kelly.

Trump also is using Twitter to play to his constituency, which relishes his role as an outsider who challenges establishment candidates and media outlets, said Lenny Alcivar, a strategist with one of the largest Republican digital consulting firms, Targeted Victory.

"The ‘bimbo’ tweet, under normal rules of political politics, invalidates a candidate," he said. "Donald Trump understands that his supporters, whether they agree or they do not agree with his actions, want an outside, strong personality. And his Twitter feed reflects that."

Trump, though, is testing the limits of the notion that "there’s no such thing as bad publicity," said GOP pollster Kristen Soltis Anderson, author of "The Selfie Vote: Where Millennials Are Leading America."

Trump understands that the day he tweets pictures of corn fields in Iowa or starts laying out policy positions on the platform is the day he becomes like any other candidate — and loses his advantage as the political outsider.

"If a traditional candidate on either side of the aisle said 2 percent of the outrageous, outlandish comments that Donald Trump made, he or she would be immediately nullified by the media and by his or her electorate," Alcivar said. "Donald Trump is the Teflon candidate."

Politico credits McConney with spearheading one of the election cycle’s more interesting social media innovations: The 15-second Instagram attack ad.

The Trump campaign has been deft at turning his opponents’ own words against them, as with this George Stephanopoulos interview with the former Florida governor, in which Jeb Bush acknowledged Trump’s political skills. It bears the sharp tagline: "Jeb Bush is finally starting to make sense for the first time!"

Thank you Jeb Bush- you finally get it!

A video posted by Donald J. Trump (@realdonaldtrump) on

In an earlier salvo, the Trump campaign edited an interview with former First Lady Barbara Bush, in which she said her son Jeb shouldn’t mount a presidential bid: "We’ve had enough Bushes." Trump added the tart kicker: "Mother knows best, Jeb!"

Even Barbara Bush agrees with me.

A video posted by Donald J. Trump (@realdonaldtrump) on

More recently, the Trump campaign has turned its Instagram attack videos on the Democratic front-runner, Hillary Clinton. One such video, titled "Hillary and her friends," juxtaposes Clinton’s remarks about women’s rights against images of her husband, former President Bill Clinton, with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky, followed by a New York Daily News headline "Liar, Liar," in which the grand jury findings contradicted his denials of an inappropriate relationship.

Other photos capture Clinton with disgraced New York Congressman Anthony Weiner, who resigned following a sexting scandal, and comedian Bill Cosby, who faces criminal sexual assault charges.

Hillary and her friends!

A video posted by Donald J. Trump (@realdonaldtrump) on

This article originally appeared on Recode.net.

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