Social media strategies to match leadership styles

Before President Trump managed to get anywhere near the White House, he’s used Twitter to inflame, confuse and infuriate his opponents. Word from Trump Tower is that the new President won’t even be using the official handle of state. As with many other areas, the rulebook is being rudely torn up.

Theresa May become prime minister in July 2016 following another political earthquake. She couldn’t be much more different in personality from the Presidential election winner but what she might have in common is that her social media presence also offers a glimpse into her leadership approach.

On becoming PM, it became clear that there would be some big changes with the way she’d conduct her social media. Gone was the appetite of her predecessor to announce Cabinet changes and make regular announcements via Twitter. When she said in September that she wouldn’t be giving a ‘running commentary’ on Brexit, she could also have been saying the same about her approach to her use of social media.

Her style is a lot lower key to her predecessor. In her first six months as PM, Mrs May has tweeted no more than 35 times from her personal account. This compares with ten times that amount for David Cameron’s final half-year as prime minister. Of course he was campaigning hard around the referendum but their difference in approach is clear.

May’s social media so far has focused on Facebook. This appears to have been a deliberate move to engage with voters. Whilst the political movers and shakers dwell on Twitter, Team May realised that it’s on Facebook where the majority of users exist. There are 32 million on Facebook in the UK, but only around half that number on Twitter.

In this week’s speech, it was however the 10 Downing Street Twitter account that was chosen to do the real-time engagement in a series of tweets to connect with its 4.8 million followers. True to form, May’s priorities for Brexit were given in a carefully considered list of 12 graphics. These were used widely by digital news media and appeared later on the Number 10 Facebook page.

Given this clear yet effective approach it was perhaps more surprisingly that the PM’s team stuck to government channels rather than her own political accounts (such as her own Twitter handle and Facebook page). The speech as a whole was shared from these accounts with little extra commentary.

Compared to other major set-piece speeches in global politics, such as Obama’s final State of the Union address there was little offered in the way of interactive enhancements, or deeper engagement.

May’s approach is consistent with her leadership style. No running commentary, no gimmicks; setting the agenda whilst rising above the ongoing debate.

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