In a follow-up @politico to “Georgia Special Election” article by Shawn Musgrave where we discussed specifically tweeting for #GA06 – I had the opportunity to comment further on the #Trump Tweeting factor on future campaigns heading into #Elections2018
From the moment he declared his candidacy, President Donald Trump commanded legions of online followers. Now, having helped him win the White House, factions of self-made social media operatives are redirecting their skills and infrastructure to promote other candidates nationwide.
Some are even vying to spin their experiences from the presidential race into new business models, seeking to promote other candidates by paying pro-Trump Twitter users to tweet and retweet scripted messages.
Pro-Trump tweeters say they deserve at least partial credit for defeating Hillary Clinton, as well as for the string of Republican victories in recent special elections. A handful are pursuing paid gigs from aspiring conservative politicians, pitching their organized — and often secretive — follower networks to “America First” candidates willing to pay.
It’s an unproven concept, one viewed with skepticism by established campaign veterans and with varying levels of disdain by those who tweet Trump’s virtues for free. After all, Twitter derives its power from authentic, grass-roots messaging. But pay-to-tweet enthusiasts say they’re selling the future of social media strategy and that candidates won’t have any choice but to pay.
One for-profit operative, Robert Shelton, promises client-candidates “name recognition beyond anything other mediums can offer” via his network of “social media warriors” in every state, according to a freshly launched website.
Tamara Leigh, a former business partner of Shelton’s and image consultant for commercial and political clients alike, claims her own network of loyal tweeters. Leigh said plenty of other Twitter operatives are “chasing candidates,” although she didn’t name her competitors or clients.
“We have a few irons in the fire, and are gearing up for fall 2017 and kicking off the 2018 midterm elections,” said Leigh.
These Twitter networks are organized around “rooms” — message boards created by bringing up to 50 individuals into ongoing, private conversations. Shelton advertises that he and his business partner, Anita White, manage dozens of rooms.
Hundreds or even thousands of these pro-Trump forums coalesced on Twitter during the presidential campaign, members said in interviews. Impossible to count or even find except by invitation from an administrator, the rooms vary in internal rules, structure and focus. They share the unified purpose of coordinating tweets, videos and memes in support of Trump and his platform.
Many people are members of multiple rooms, and a single administrator may likewise oversee several rooms simultaneously.
“If you do a tweet, you can put it into every group you’re a member of,” Shelton said. “It’s an expectation that everyone in the room will retweet what you put in there.”
The rooms started as a loose network to ridicule Clinton with the hashtags and memes du jour — #LockHerUp or Soros-as-puppetmaster, for instance. But administrators learned to harness them to spread new talking points, often based off Trump’s own early morning post or breaking events, like Clinton’s stumble at the 9/11 memorial service that was spun into #ClintonCollapse and scores of memes about her health.
Room members who spoke with POLITICO said their efforts during the presidential race were unpaid and that they worked without input from the Trump campaign, aside from his own Twitter flurries.
“It actually is quite incredible how many dedicated patriots devoted a great deal of time, effort and talent to tweeting for Trump and America with no expectation of financial benefit, or at least that was a secondary motivation,” said Leigh.
After the election and a couple months off Twitter, Shelton realized the rooms could be repurposed to support like-minded candidates across the country, and decided to pitch them as a paid promotional service.
He filed to reinstate a business he incorporated in Georgia, his home state, and rebranded both his Twitter handle and assemblage of rooms — which up to that point had various names for organizational purposes — under the @RobertsRooms umbrella.
Asked about the rebranding, Shelton said it arose from the need to project professionalism.