A version of this story was originally published on Medium.
Our nation has been divided by cable TV and radio shows, by fake news, political propaganda and Facebook filter bubbles.
Everyone has their own group, their own contexts and their own set of facts. It’s hard to pierce the bubble.
In particular, President-elect Donald Trump has a rabid fan base that seems unreachable. The reason is that Trump has inoculated them against facts.
He’s done this by giving credibility to tabloid journalism, fake news, conspiracy theories and Russian dictators.
More astonishingly, he has discredited (in the minds of his followers) our best newspapers, our best journalists, our best fact-checking organizations and even the institutions of media and fact-checking themselves.
So among Trump followers, the lunatic rantings of whack-job Alex Jones is true. Detailed reports, backed up by data and great sources is false.
Or, more accurately, any report that benefits Trump is true. Any report that does not benefit Trump is false.
Meanwhile, Trump is bypassing the very institutions that would keep his lies in check by going straight to Twitter and speaking to the masses without challenge, filter or context.
And therein lies the opportunity for anyone who opposes Trump.
Trump’s fans, semi-fans, journalists, and even his staunch opposition read not only Trump’s tweets, but the first few dozen comments to those tweets.
I discovered this by accident.
I follow the president-elect’s @RealDonaldTrump account on Twitter. I also use TweetBot on my desktop. So I see tweets instantly.
A few days ago, Trump tweeted this:
I responded by tweeting this as a reply:
I did it quickly, too. Within 10 seconds of his tweet.
That comment got more engagement than anything I’ve ever posted on Twitter. It got over 800,000 impressions and 24,000 engagements.
That means 800,000 people got my take on Trump’s tweet. Not bad!
Also, in the 24 hours after that comment, my Twitter following grew by more than 300 people.
Of course, after such tweets I get flooded with thousands of replies, many of them nasty, illiterate and hateful.
The bottom line is that the 10 seconds following any Trump tweet represents a window of opportunity to reach the people who are paying attention to Trump.
Think about that.
Here’s my guide to turning Trump’s own Twitter popularity against him, and gaining a few extra followers in the process:
- Use a Twitter streamer (like TweetBot) so you see Trump’s tweets instantly.
- The most effective comment is one directly related to Trump’s tweet that fact-checks or contextualizes what he is saying in a substantive and intelligent way.
- When you sift through the replies, block every abusive or trollish person who replies. The reason for this is that they waste your time and aren’t your target audience anyway. Block them so you don’t have to hear from them next time.
- Keep doing this.
A quick note about blocking trolls: Look for the following characteristics that reveal somebody is a pro-Trump troll, hater or phony. Look for a fake or egg profile pic, a fake name, a tiny number of followers and giveaways like the use of “deplorable” in the name or general illiteracy.
Yes, Trump is using his Twitter account as his secret weapon — his megaphone that enables him to spread self-serving misinformation to the world.
But Trump’s Twitter account is also your megaphone to reach the same people.
Twitter’s immediacy is a sword that cuts both ways.
Mike Elgan is a journalist who writes and talks about digital nomad living, mobile computing, AI, virtual assistants, consumer technology and food technology. Reach him @MikeElgan.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.