Truth Social made Trump rich, but as a social network it faces problems

(CNN) — Nick Mirtschink, 28, says that when he’s not breeding horses or working on a construction site, he spends “a lot” of time on Truth Social, the social media platform started by Donald Trump.

So does Bree Duke, a retiree from northwest Georgia, who said she regularly checks Trump’s posts for what she calls “the truth.”

“I love it,” Duke told CNN. “It’s on my TV and on my phone.”

Miertschink and Duke shared their enthusiastic opinions of the app while attending Trump’s recent rally in Rome, Georgia, where it was easy to find regular Truth Social users. However, outside of its MAGA movement, the social media site has struggled to find a wider audience. Its users are decreasing and its traffic has decreased. As of November, there were approximately 860,000 active accounts on the site, a very low number compared to other mainstream platforms.

And yet, on Friday, Digital World Acquisition Corp. approved a lucrative merger with Truth Social’s owner, Trump Media & Technology Group, that is expected to yield a billion-dollar windfall for the former president, as well as legal There has also been an increase in actions and punishments. His business empire, his personal wealth and his campaign finances compromised. However, this will not provide immediate relief, because Trump will not be able to sell his shares for six months.

It’s a major milestone for the social media site as well as Trump, paving the way for the former real estate mogul’s return to Wall Street. The company will trade under the symbol DJT, placing Trump’s initials next to some of the world’s most prestigious brands and corporations, as Trump Tower once did.

For Trump, whose vibrant and oppositional presence on Twitter helped chart his path to the US presidency, the social media site has also become a new megaphone for his uncritical opinions. His most devoted followers, political journalists and even his own staff and advisers rely on the site to hear his latest thinking, which he shares in dozens of posts a day.

But as Trump enters his third year as a social media mogul, the app’s long-term viability (and purpose) remains unclear. Truth Social poses no serious threat to compete with Eclipse, Has been hailed as alternative conservative. Trump Media management warned last year that the company was at risk of bankruptcy without a merger, and most analysts doubt its current valuation is above $6 billion.

“It’s wildly overvalued,” Jay Ritter, a finance professor at the University of Florida, told CNN this week. “It is considered a meme stock whose price deviates from its fundamental value.”

Instead, very high valuations seem closely linked to Trump’s political comeback effort. But Truth Social hasn’t proven it can survive, let alone thrive, without the nation’s attention on the site’s most famous user.

“Truth Social’s influence is largely, if not entirely, driven by the popularity of Donald Trump,” said Josephine Lucito, who researches the intersection of politics and social media at the University of Texas at Austin. “Without that, I don’t think there’s a practical way forward.”

initial optimism

Truth Social launched in early 2022, a year after Twitter restored what is now known as Trump’s account, although he posts almost exclusively on Truth Social.

Trump recently told the audience at an event in South Carolina that he purchased his app name from “somebody” for $2,100.

“I would have paid millions,” Trump told the crowd.

Some conservatives, looking for an alternative to major social media sites considered hostile to their viewpoint, initially seemed eager to adopt Truth Social. A 2021 poll found that 3 in 5 Republicans expected to use the new site.

“Get ready!” Trump wrote in his first Truth Social post. “Your favorite President will meet you soon.”

But enthusiasm for the app outweighed actual usage. Three months after its launch, only 2% of Americans reported regularly using Truth Social for news, Pew Research found, in line with other typical conservative social media options like Getter and Rumble.

Activity on the app has fallen from its initial peak. The site’s monthly active users on iOS and Android devices are down 39% year over year, according to SimilarWeb data shared with CNN earlier this month. Visits to the site on mobile and desktop devices also declined by approximately 29% during that period.

The app itself is somewhat clunky and not without technical problems. Trump appeared off-duty during President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address when he promised to provide live comments.

CNN attempted to contact Truth Social for comment through an email address on its website. The email bounced.

Trump Media CEO Devin Nunes, a former Republican congressman, said in a statement last month after US regulators approved the merger: “Moving forward, our goal is to accelerate our work to create a free speech highway ” technology.”

Trump insists that Truth Social is “on fire”, as he himself has said. He regularly promotes the app during his rallies and interviews. For example, Trump recently reblogged his post on Truth Social in support of in vitro fertilization treatments following the Alabama Supreme Court’s decision to suspend access to some IVF services to some clinics in the state. discussed.

“The greatest joy in life is having a beautiful, healthy, wonderful child,” Trump said. He added, “I spread that message on an organization called Truth Social. Anyone connecting lately? Truth Social is in fashion.

Many Republican and conservative politicians have not joined Truth Social or post infrequently. Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin’s last term in office was in July 2022. Popular conservative podcast hosts Megyn Kelly, Ben Shapiro, and Glenn Beck do not have active accounts. South Carolina Senator Tim Scott recently joined the Truth Social just as his name emerged as a potential running mate for Trump.

Those who have adopted Truth Social remain active on its competitors’ platforms, including those close to Trump.

“People close to him are very active on X. They’re active on other platforms,” ​​said Matt Terrill, who was chief of staff for the 2016 presidential campaign of Florida Senator Marco Rubio, another prolific social media user. “It’s a recognition that this is where a lot of people get their news.”

To his supporters, the venture is further evidence of Trump’s business acumen, a reputation he built during a career working in real estate and as a reality television personality.

“It’s wonderful because we’re having this conversation right now,” author Paul Leslie, who attended Trump’s rally in Georgia, told CNN. “You create your own social media platform and then people also talk about the fact that ‘Oh, you’re not on Twitter.’ It’s just another source of press and, as anyone can clearly see, there has never been a character more adept at public relations than Donald Trump.

Trump Social

On any given day, Trump will post dozens of times on Truth Social, providing a steady stream of comments on his legal troubles, sharing favorable polling numbers, responding to negative coverage, and reflecting on the political controversies of the day.

It was on Truth Social where Trump first commented on the end of the candidacy of former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley.

On Friday alone, Trump attacked the judge and state attorney general in one of his legal cases, expressed support for Cuban protesters, endorsed an Arizona state Senate candidate, shared eight videos of him speaking directly to the camera and Suggested they had enough money. Cover up a $464 million civil fraud verdict in New York, a potentially worrying admission for his legal team.

The posts reiterate Trump’s past social media use and style; Often posts in all caps, but only a small portion of the reach. On X, the site formerly known as Twitter and now owned by billionaire Elon Musk, Trump has 87 million followers, 13 times more than his audience on Truth Social.

“It’s safe to say that Truth Social has not entered the mainstream,” said Joshua Tucker, co-director of the Center for Politics and Social Media at New York University. “It’s a place for small groups of conservatives to meet and for Trump to talk to some of his supporters.”

For some of those supporters, this is a feature and not a bug.

“I think it’s definitely a good thing that he’s off Twitter,” Miertschink said at the Georgia rally. “Because there are too many Democrats on Twitter.”

Kurt Holtzclaw, a 20-year-old construction worker and Trump supporter, acknowledged that he has seen a considerable amount of Truth Social content from conspiratorial accounts, which may be blocked on other platforms.

“I like to get information from different sources,” Holtzclaw said. “But I’d love to know your perspective.”

Where Truth Social has been successful, it has primarily benefited one person: Trump. As the former president re-emerged as the front-runner for the Republican nomination, Truth Social got many more mentions in news coverage from reporters scouring the site for Trump’s views on race, said Lucito, the University of Texas professor. . This has only accelerated since Trump became the potential Republican candidate.

“One of the misconceptions is that what matters is how big you’re going to be relative to Twitter or how much money you’re going to make,” Lucito said. “The reality is that he is winning because he can successfully leverage media coverage through Truth Social. Most people find out about it not because they’re on stage but because they see it in the media.”

Trump recently acknowledged the incident after Jimmy Kimmel mocked the former president’s comments about his performance hosting the Oscars.

“Finish reading my ‘truth’. “E (sic) said this guy is even dumber than he thought,” Trump wrote on Truth Social. “The matter went viral. “It’s already happened all over the world and I just had to keep my mouth shut.”

Still, some of his supporters also look forward to the days when Trump’s posts reach a wider audience.

“Trump was tweeting and, wow, everybody was angry about it,” Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene said at a recent Trump rally. “I will tell you what, I would give anything for a few good tweets from Trump. Hey, you know, you can find it on Truth Social. You know where he is.”

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