Trump only posted once on his newest fleece-the-flock scheme since his Truth Social alternative to Twitter went live late last month. It doesn't work. Everyone who signs up is on a wait-list. Maybe Trump should have hired a high school kid to run it instead of social media clod Devin Nunes. Or maybe he should have hired Nunes' cow.
This morning, Ruby Kramer reported for Politico that the non-innovative site is a complete rip of Twitter. She wrote that Señor Trumpanzee "created his own alternate online universe for the MAGA-loving, Big Tech-hating common man. After months of hype, the site was here-- and it looked a lot like the thing it’s supposed to replace." There wasn't much imagination that went into it-- in fact none at all. "[E]verything once blue was now a bright, jewel-toned purple. Tweets, a.k.a. posts, were now 'Truths.' Retweets were now 'ReTruths,' capital T. And above my username, I saw the site’s default avatar: Twitter’s cream-colored egg icon, the image given to all new users, had apparently given birth to a proud purple eagle. The rest of the site appeared familiar: Replies were still replies. Likes were still likes. Direct messages, still in development, were still direct messages. And Donald Trump was still @realDonaldTrump-- followed, as of this writing, by 140,000 people, a tiny fraction of his onetime total audience on Twitter. Only one Truth appeared on his page: 'Get Ready! Your favorite President will see you soon!' he wrote two weeks ago, before the app’s launch. The Truth displayed 7,750 ReTruths, 30,500 likes and 4,700 replies. (Inexplicably, unlike replies on other user posts, none of the responses to Trump’s message were visible to me.)
Republican lawmakers like Marjorie Taylor Greene and Matt Gaetz and Kevin McCarthy already have accounts and appear to be posting similar or identical content to both Truth Social and Twitter, along with right-leaning platforms like Gettr and Parler. (Apparently, no one is quite ready to turn their backs on an actual audience yet.) But when they do finally get their welcome emails, the thousands of regular Trump fans still waiting in line, eager for their chance to search for truth, will find a Twitter knock-off with no immediately discernible improvement on the original-- a vanity project that has yet to prove its utility.
Put simply, there isn’t much happening on the site.
...The site is the marquee offering of Trump’s tech venture, Trump Media & Technology Group, founded last year as part of a SPAC deal, with $1 billion from undisclosed investors, according to the company (which is now reportedly under investigation by federal regulators). Truth Social’s page is filled with memes: a car veering off the highway, away from a sign for “Big Tech” to an exit ramp for “Truth Social”; two doors, one for Twitter, showing a vacant room, another for “Truth Social,” with dozens of people trying to get in. But from the inside, Truth Social feels empty.
The most vigorous conversation on the site seems to be the entirely made-up one that appeared on the mock-ups before the launch. In the images available on the Apple app store, an account called @jack is seen corresponding with a man named Rick, making conversation like “What’s your favorite place to go in the world? You won’t believe how beautiful Jamaica is.” Another mock-up, demonstrating the yet to be unveiled direct message feature, shows @jack asking someone named @jane to ask Truth Social’s moderation team to take down an offensive account. “Are you sure you want to do that?” @jane replies. “I mean it’s a pretty big deal censoring that content. Kinda an overreach… right?” In the mock-up @jack (perhaps a reference to Twitter’s founder, Jack Dorsey) writes back, “JUST TAKE IT DOWN!” with a red-faced angry emoji. What the mock-up was meant to demonstrate-- a user experience free of censorship, or safe moderation-- is unclear. But on the site, there was little engagement between users. In response to a post from Nunes advising “another day with more people joining the platform,” 149 replies included messages of encouragement. “Making Social Media Great Again!” one user said. “It’s already better than Twitter if anyone can read this message!!” said another.
Daily Beast reporter Asawin Suebsaeng also visited today-- and panned it: An embarrassing dud. He wrote that "Even for a soft launch, Truth Social's launch has been particularly soft. And after a botched rollout where most prospective users were simply added to a wait list, Trump has been grumbling about the app behind the scenes, according to two sources familiar with the matter, even as he’s tried to put on a brave face publicly. In recent weeks, sources have heard the former president on the phone swearing gratuitously and asking things like, 'What the fuck is going on' with Truth Social. He’s repeatedly groused about the negative press and the less-than-stellar optics of the rollout, these sources said. And he’s demanded to know why more people aren’t using it-- why the app isn’t swiftly dominating the competition."
During his presidency and in the years prior to his political rise, Trump had a famous reputation for berating underlings for failures that were mostly his own fault. Throughout all those years, his short attention span was a constant; he tends to quickly lose interest in novel business ideas, partnerships, and money-making gimmicks that oftentimes rapidly go nowhere-- if not worse.
But if the preliminary traffic numbers are of any indication, the former president and current wannabe social-media mogul has a point.
The Daily Beast reviewed analyses of visits to Truth Social’s performed by SimilarWeb, which tracks website traffic from public and private sources. The company’s figures for the MAGA social network-- while only an estimate based on incomplete data-- are nonetheless anemic. Trump’s own social media platform is doing either worse or the same as other MAGA social sites like Gab-- another pro-Trump competitor website that’s especially beloved by, well, Nazis-- and Gettr, a platform fronted by one of Trump’s former top political aides, Jason Miller.
SimilarWeb’s estimates show a sharp spike of around 2 million daily visits to the site when it first debuted, before traffic dipped to an average of approximately 300,000 visits each day, putting the site on par with Gettr. Meanwhile, the far-right Gab has averaged around 650,000 daily average visits in the same time period.
As of Friday, Truth Social was the 72nd most popular free app in Apple’s AppStore, a far cry from Facebook (5th) and his formerly beloved Twitter (22), both of which booted the ex-president after the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
The relatively light traffic could be explained in part by Truth Social’s waitlist-- MAGA fans who want to join the platform have now racked up a million-strong backlog of users looking to join during the app’s soft launch. The app is also only available on Apple devices, denying access to owners of Android phones.
The extreme-right Gab, however, has managed to rack up twice the web traffic as Truth Social, despite its mobile apps being banned from both Apple and Google’s app stores.
The odd sluggishness of the waitlist could also explain why, at this early stage of Trump’s website, the MAGA fans who have visited Truth Social also don’t tend to stay very long, according to SimilarWeb’s analytical tools. The company estimates that the average visitor to Trump’s site stays for just 90 seconds-- a far cry from the seven minutes users tend to spend on Gettr and nine minutes spent on Gab.
In an appearance at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando last week, Trump said the app’s launch was still ongoing. “It’s slowly been opened, people are getting on and they’re loving the product and we’re getting a voice,” he claimed to a reporter from the pro-MAGA Right Side Broadcasting Network.
“It’s been an incredible success,” he claimed. “We have hundreds of thousands of people trying to get on and we’re doing it very slowly.”
Even though Team Trump might be eager to spin this as standard growing pains as opposed to conspicuous shortcomings, Truth Social’s lackluster performance is notable given the deep pockets behind the company.
Trump Media & Technology Group-- Truth Social’s parent company-- raised a billion dollars from investors when it went public in late 2021. The company had also partnered, as The Daily Beast first reported in December, with another well-funded right-wing social media contender, Rumble, which markets itself as an alternative to Big Tech staples like YouTube and Amazon Web Services.
Still, it is likely not helping the fortunes of the 45th U.S. president’s new company given that he doesn’t even seem all that interested in using it right now. As Axios pointed out this week, “Trump hasn't posted a single time since the launch, despite an international crisis that has captivated the country. Instead, he's given his comments to radio and TV hosts.”
With Twitter being an obvious exception, Trump has long been skeptical, or just plain hostile, toward the concept of personally using new apps and technology.
He is rarely seen operating a computer himself, and he doesn’t even email. Instead, he relies on an assistant to send messages for him. He even gets irrationally angry at websites and online forums that don’t make sense to him.
When Trump (ostensibly) hosted a Reddit AMA during his 2016 presidential campaign and was asked by his staff to pose for a photo of him “participating” via laptop, the then-future leader of the free world got annoyed and barked at his aides. He said the whole exercise was a waste of his time, and he stormed out of the room, according to two people with knowledge of the matter.
At the time, while aboard his private plane, Trump added that one reason he stormed off was that he felt some of his campaign aides were making fun of him for looking like he didn’t know how to use a computer.
Still, Truth Social could be critical at some point for Trump’s expected campaign for president.
Twitter and Facebook were crucial to his successful 2016 and barely unsuccessful 2020 campaigns. And during his presidency, Trump routinely marveled at how he was able to instantaneously change cable-news bottom-halves and regularly drive entire news cycles with a flick of a tweet. Trump even told his former attorney general Bill Barr that the way to write a truly “good tweet” was to inject “just the right amount of crazy,” according to Barr’s account.
It’s just that, right now, he seems to be sticking with long, characteristically incoherent statements that his aides screenshot and post to… Twitter.