A Winning Twitter Strategy

BIRCH RUN, MI - AUGUST 11: (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

Hey Donald Trump,

The key to winning on Twitter is to follow the Bernie Sanders strategy. Bernie Sanders, the man from the Great 95% White State of Vermont, is the reigning king of Twitter. He’s followed a basic, three step process.

    1. Identify injustice
    2. Incite anger about the injustice
    3. Call to action

It’s simple, yet hard to implement well. We’ll do a quick analysis of a few of his tweets to explain how the process works.

Phase 1: Identify Injustice

Here’s a Bernie Sanders tweet from June 19.

“In many inner cities, kids now stand a greater chance of ending up in jail than ending up with a college degree. That’s gotta end.”

Another one from June 19.

“It is a disgrace that hundreds of thousands of bright young people are unable to go to college because their families lack the income.”

You don’t have to mention that the number and salaries of university administrators have soared disproportionately to the number of students. You don’t have to mention that those people are government employees, paid either by students or by tax-paying non-government workers.

Details don’t matter. Leave them out.

Focus on the injustice.

Here’s a classic tweet from June 17.

“I find it strange that the kid who smokes marijuana gets arrested but the crooks on Wall Street get off scot free.”

This one is great because it not only identifies an injustice — unequal legal treatment — but simultaneously identifies a villain — Wall Street.

In a single tweet, Bernie has transitioned from the Injustice phase to the Anger phase — he has identified a target.

Phase 2: Incite Anger

What is required for the Anger phase are emotional responses and targets of blame. Injustices, if chosen wisely, will incite an emotional response. Sometimes it’s sympathy, sometimes it is frustration or anger. These emotions will occur naturally and begin to break down the reader’s defenses.

In Phase 2, the goal is to take those emotions and turn them all into anger, increase that anger and then target it. Bernie is a master blamer and he knows the subjects for which almost all Americans feel sympathy. Use them.

From May 30:

“It is unacceptable that the top 10% of farms collect 75% of farm subsidies, while the bottom 62% do not receive any subsidies.”

While this tweet might appear as a simple Injustice identifier, the use of the inflammatory “Unacceptable” makes it an Anger inciter.

However, this one is particularly clever. He used statistics to his advantage. 10% collecting 75% — this is easily seen by the unthinking as wrong. Few will ask, and almost no one will investigate, exactly how are subsidies calculated. Are they determined by profit, size of farm, by yield?

Follow his lead, Donald. Don’t lie, but leave any potentially contradictory details out.

From June 1:

“Offshore fracking has the potential to pollute the ocean with toxic fluid, hurt the environment, and harm our beaches. Unacceptable.”

Here we have the classic anger-inducer “Unacceptable” combined with the emotive image of ocean and beaches. Brilliant.

But the best of them was tweeted on May 24.

“Young people are figuring out that they are the future of this country, and they damn well want to help shape the future of this country.”

Anger is expressed by using the word ‘damn’ and then combined with a subtle transition to a call to action for young people. What young person doesn’t want to believe she’s a shaper of our country’s future? No one. Agreeing with that generality, and Bernie, people can feel that they are doing something just by supporting a specific candidate.

Once you’ve gotten the people angry, as Bernie so clearly did, you can actually just come out and say it, as Bernie tweeted on June 26.

“The American people are angry.”

That makes it appear as if we are all angry, and all agree with him. It’s almost insidious how good that statement is.

As we discussed earlier, anger is contagious. Bernie is inciting anger in the consuming parts of the country, spreading it, and fomenting it.

Your opportunity, Donald, is to incite anger in the producing parts of the country, where food is actually grown and consumable energy is actually created. Go to the deserts, where the wind farms and solar farms are. Go to the oil producing areas where people are sweaty from the labor of enabling our automobiles. Go to the farm towns and ranch towns and smell the manure and compost. That’s where you have a base, in the Hated Middle.

Phase 3: Call to Action

Once injustice is identified and anger is incited, then you go for the people. Move them. Inspire them. Create a massive following.

As Bernie tweeted on the 26th.

“We must take on the greed and power of corporate America, and create a government and an economy that works for all, not just the 1 percent.”

Right off, he’s got the call to action by using ‘we must’. But he also invoked anger by using the derogatory ‘greed’ and he’s got a target — corporate America.

“We must” “We need.” Even “We’ve gotta” — these are clear calls to action, and all used in the last two days.

He was on fire June 19, with three “We must…” tweets in a row. Go check for yourself. There is power in repetition, and Bernie gets it.

However, as Bernie learned, sometimes anger can go too far. All the focus on anger and injustice can breed hate and violence. So we’d suggest, as Bernie Sanders did, that you throw in a softer side, one that connects you to your followers.

Bernie tweeted this on June 25.

“I don’t want you to think you’re courageous radicals. You are not. Turns out that our ideas are mainstream and supported by millions people.”

And now he’s got a campaign to get his followers to run for office.

Final Notes

    • You don’t have to separate the phases. They can, and should, overlap. The importance of the phases is the weighting. This month, for you Don, we recommend focusing the majority of your tweets on injustices. And never stop reinforcing those injustices. That’s why Bernie’s still working all phases simultaneously.

    • Subtlety helps as well. Bernie isn’t as aggressive with his name calling and belittling as you are. He uses more socially acceptable words like ‘greedy’ and ‘selfish’. We think that’s smart.

    • A few platitudinal promises thrown in every once in a while will help pull the support towards you. Bernie’s calls for free tuition and free healthcare are easy to make. However, promises can’t be your focus. You must be the leader of the charge, not the platitudinal preacher with a rigid index finger.


There are three core phases to building a large and loyal Twitter following.

    Phase 1: Build the Injustice
    Phase 2: Incite Anger
    Phase 3: Call to Action

More simply:

Injustice. Anger. Action.


Bernie Sanders showed you the way to manipulate the masses with Twitter, now follow his lead and go.

And annex Baja, please.