By any measure, Truth Social, Donald Trump’s social media platform, had a rocky start.
Engagement is low, the app’s initial flood of downloads has dwindled to a trickle, and the first resignations of its senior staff have begun. It’s too early to tell if this is a stiff one, but as with many Trump businesses that fail to get off the ground, the former US president appears to be washing his hands of it: he barely has it used.
The Twitter clone, where posts are called “truths,” launched with high expectations on February’s President’s Day. It was briefly the most downloaded free app on Apple. But three weeks after Truth Social launched, its position in the downloads chart fell to 116. Last week, it failed to break the top 200. A A study found that downloads dropped by 95%.
It now appears that Truth Social is following the same path as Trump Steaks and Trump Vodka, to name a few. Typing the Trump name on a product that others produce better just doesn’t work – especially now.
Yet, judging by his public statements, the story was supposed to be very different this time around. “I created Truth Social … to resist the tyranny of big tech,” Trump said in October, 10 months after he was permanently banned from Twitter.
But users, many of whom anticipate a direct channel to Trump and Trumpist thinking as the former president prepares for a 2024 presidential election, have been deeply disappointed with the Truth Social experience.
An estimated 1.2 million users with the Apple-only app faced long wait times to access the platform. “Thank you for joining us!” reads the Truth Social prompt. “Due to overwhelming demand, we have placed you on our waiting list.” Even Trump seems to be staying away and has only posted once on the platform yet.
Meanwhile, Digital Word Acquisition Corp, the special acquisitions vehicle, or Spac, bringing social truth to the public is under investigation by the SEC. The deal was to reward investors with millions – and Trump himself up to a billion – but the company has now been rocked by an exodus of executives.
Last week Josh Adams and Billy Boozer, Truth Social’s heads of technology and product development, resigned from the company. The Washington Post reported that the resignations came after Trump Media & Technology Group CEO Devin Nunes, the former US congressman, tried to install his own allies to lead the company.
Truth Social’s service issues come as Tesla CEO Elon Musk became Twitter’s largest shareholder by acquiring a 9.2% stake in the company as well as a seat on the board.
Musk, who has had a series of run-ins with US financial regulators over financial disclosures made on social media, has signaled he plans to advocate for changes to the platform where he has 80.4 million dollars. subscribers. Shares on Twitter rose more than 27%.
Last month, he asked his followers if Twitter was violating free speech principles. “Freedom of expression is essential to the functioning of a democracy. Do you believe that Twitter strictly adheres to this principle? ” He asked.
After more than 2 million users responded, Musk wrote“Given that Twitter serves as the de facto town square, failure to uphold the principles of free speech fundamentally undermines democracy.”
With speculation growing that Musk could use his power as a shareholder and board member to restore Trump to Twitter, where he had 90 million followers before he was delisted after the Jan. 6 Capitol riot , the purpose and fate of Truth Social hangs in the balance.
Trump Media & Technology Group, Trump’s firm which advisers say will become a “media powerhouse” last year, initially pitched Truth Social as the centerpiece of its ambitions to counter what the former president routinely calls “fake news media” and to establish a social network. media presence which it currently lacks. But, according to the Post, Trump “privately fumed” about Truth Social’s slowness and problems and considered joining rival Gettr.
For several reasons, Truth Social may have gone a step too far, said David Carr of SimilarWeb. The analytics company estimates Truth Social’s visitors at 200,000 a day, 70% men, compared to Gettr’s 1 million. Twitter averaged 217 million.
“In the case of Truth Social, Gettr and Parler had already emerged to cater to the same audience that Truth Social was targeting,” Carr said. “So it had to be 150% better, and so far it hasn’t created a lot of engagement. If Trump had released a ton of content and there was really pent-up demand, maybe that things would have been different.
But the apparent failure of Truth Social presents some truths about social media itself. Most users don’t come here, except perhaps Twitter with its relatively small number of users, for political communication; one-sided conversations rarely inspire engagement, and sites require large numbers of users and traffic to have social impact.
“Community management professionals I know often talk about the ’empty part’ problem of how you get the conversation going from a dead end, and it’s not an easy problem to solve,” said said Carr.
At the heart of the problem is what Joshua Tucker, co-director of the NYU Center for Social Media and Politics, calls “network effects.” “Social media sites are more valuable to you the more people use them. Like a directory, it has no value if it only contains one name,” he said.
Part of the problem with Truth Social was that it aimed to exclude much of the political spectrum. “They went after the Maga part of the population, so they started with one hand tied behind their back,” Tucker said. “It’s a tough sell, even before the launch and rollout issues.”
Yet Trump has been routinely underrated in the past, Tucker said, “yet he kind of seems to lend being a pretty unsuccessful businessman to being an incredibly successful political candidate.”
Truth Social was created to counter what many conservatives call the left’s “cancel culture” censorship. But because of his conservative dominance, Trump’s social media platform has become a medium for “trolls, self-proclaimed, self-taught pundits, conspiracy theorists, attention seekers of all stripes,” Mark said. Federman from the University of Guelph-Humber.
“Trump’s motivation for Truth Social was to… take control of his vocal amplification. It was a failure, so he had to admit defeat,” he added.