Justin McConney, the man who taught Donald Trump how to tweet, described the sinking feeling in his stomach he felt when he realized his boss was tweeting on his own.
‘The moment I found out Trump could tweet himself was comparable to the moment in ‘Jurassic Park’ when Dr. Grant realized that velociraptors could open doors,’ McConney told Politico. ‘I was like, ‘Oh no.”
Twitter has become Trump’s favorite form of communication. He uses it to announce hirings and firings in his White House. He posts policy changes. And he uses the social media platform to rail against his perceived political enemies: ‘Crooked’ Hillary Clinton, the ‘Witch Hunt!’ special counsel Robert Mueller is conducting with his Russia investigation, and even members of his own Cabinet and party – often ending his rants with an explanation point.
Justin McConney, the man who taught Donald Trump how to tweet, seen with Trump and Kayne West
McConney – seen here with Trump and Jimmy Fallon managed social media for The Trump Organization
Just like this moment: Trump’s former social media manager compared his discovery of how to tweet to when the velociraptors learned how to open doors in Jurassic Park
This week, starting Sunday, Trump wrote 43 original tweets on his @RealDonaldTrump account, whose following has grown to 56.4 million followers.
His tweets typically garner retweets in the five figures.
McConney, who was the Trump Organization’s director of social media from 2011 to 2017, shared with Politico his perspective of Trump’s online journey.
McConney recalled the day – Feb. 5, 2013, – that he saw a tweet posted on @RealDonaldTrump which thanked actress Sherri Shepherd for comments she made about the business mogel during an appearance on ABC’s ‘The View.’
He knew he had not posted the tweet. He queried other members of the social media team and they hadn’t posted it either – and that was the moment he realized Trump had figured out Twitter on his own.
McConney oversaw the account’s evolution – from its quiet beginnings when it was established in 2009 to Trump’s take over in 2012.
McConney, who was 24 when he took the job, had to work out of the Trump Organization’s cafeteria, as the company didn’t know what to do with him or where to put him.
He had to preach the virtues of social media to the Trump family and push to get the business titan to appreciate its value.
Trump, McConney recalled to Politico, was initially skeptical of social media. The business tycoon got his start in the New York tabloids and on network television.
That was the area where his comfort lied.
But when McConney showed Trump how social media could translate into traditional media coverage, the businessman was intrigued.
The moment that really sold Trump on the power of the internet was his lunch with former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin in 2011.
Photos and footage from Trump’s 2011 pizza lunch went viral, convincing him of the power of social media – all because of an internet eruption over him using a fork
Trump posted a video online explaining his eating technique and several traditional news outlets ran his explanation, much to his delight
The two ate pizza together in Manhattan but most of the media coverage centered on the fact Trump ate his slice with a knife and fork.
McConney convinced Trump to record an explanation of his eating technique for a blog post.
Trump told the camera: ‘This way you can take the top of the pizza off so you’re not just eating the crust. I like to not eat the crust so we can keep the weight down.’
His explanation was quoted by several news outlets, much to his delight.
‘That’s when he was sold on the concept of social media,’ McConney told Politico.
It was the instant gratification and control that appealed to Trump.
And, from there, the account’s postings grew.
In 2010, before McConney started with Trump, the account had tweeted only 142 times.
In 2011, 744 tweets were posted.
Initially, Trump stayed true to his old-school roots.
He had McConney print out his Twitter mentions and he would hand-write responses for the aide to post online.
He would also have McConney print out photos of himself to approve the ones posted to @RealDonaldTrump.
‘He was very old school back then,’ McConney told the news website. ‘He was not someone who really used computers or went on the internet very much.’
But, he added, Trump ‘knew PR and he knew news cycles very well.’
Trump increased his Twitter pace – posting up to 10 times a day.
Trump’s twitter account has grown to 56.4 million followers
He would call McConney 24/7 to dictate everything from the wording to the placement of dashes and exclamation points.
At first the calls came from Melania Trump, who had saved McConney’s number in her phone, hit dial and would hand it to her husband.
She would also weigh in on Trump’s ideas for tweets, speaking in the background as her husband was on the phone with McConney.
In November 2012, on a flight to Florida, Trump asked McConney if he preferred iPhones or Androids.
McConney said iPhone but Trump replied: ‘The screens are much bigger on the Android.’
He soon had his own mobile phone and, in February 2013, began to tweet for himself.
The implosion had begun.
In 2013, Trump tweeted more than 8,000 times.
As for McConney, he continued to advise Trump on social media strategy and did some work on the presidential campaign.
But he was marginalized by Trump’s first campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, who favored Dan Scavino, now the White House director of social media, sources told Politico.
McConney now works as a freelance consultant.