The Seven Types of People Who Tweet at Trump

by Polly Mosendz | April 10, 2017

I love Twitter,” Donald Trump once tweeted. That love is manifest in more than 34,000 tweets since he took up the mantle @realDonaldTrump and over 350 in the weeks since he became the U.S. president. Trump has more than 27 million followers on Twitter, and countless more are likely to see his messages, either amplified online or parroted in the endless news reports about whatever Trump just tweeted.

Only a select few of these millions, by comparison, ever tweet back at Trump—and many of those are robots programmed to interact with @realDonaldTrump. What drives anyone else to tweet at a president?

Trump’s 10 most-engaged Twitter followers over the past 30 days include five confirmed robots and three accounts that appear to be bots, according to audience data collected by Social Rank. Trump’s most prolific respondent, @Trump2016_Fan, has posted more than 18,000 times in the past year, mostly all-caps messages of support for the 45th president. The account appears to be automated and did not respond to a request for an interview.

But there are plenty of humans in the 20,000 or so replies generated by a typical Trump tweet. These are piled like building blocks beneath each tweet, a tower of typos, insults, and encouragement that stretches on and on. Scrolling through the replies to a single Trump message is enough to test the fortitude of any reader; getting to the last reply is the sort of task it's hard to imagine any human doing voluntarily. Yet the replies bundled nearest to @realDonaldTrump—in a sorting determined by Twitter’s mysterious algorithm—are likely to be seen by hundreds of thousands of users. If Trump is the most powerful and visible user of Twitter, the replies appearing closest to his messages must occupy some of the most influential real estate on the internet.

We set out to profile the lovers, haters, and robots that can be found in the replies to @realDonaldTrump to understand their motivations. Most, but not all, of the individuals interviewed are men. According to beta content-analysis software used by Social Rank, 19 percent of Trump’s followers are women. Among Trump’s 20 most-engaged followers, only two had traditionally female names—and both of those accounts appear to be automated.

The Bots

Bots are a rampant part of life on Twitter. Some are programmed to emulate email spam and proliferate marketing links, while others respond to common typos or transmit every word in the dictionary. Then there are bots, such as @EveryTrumpDonor and @ConstBot, whose jobs largely consist of broadcasting messages at the president of the United States.

Adam Kraft, the 42-year-old programmer behind @EveryTrumpDonor, gave it two operating instructions: Mention Trump's Twitter account every hour and reply to his tweets twice a day. Kraft's bot has so far posted more than 15,000 tweets, all of which provide information about Trump’s donors.

Kraft, a self-identified liberal, started out with an interest in campaign finance reform and government transparency. He found a public data stream released by the Federal Election Commission that reveals the names, occupations, locations, and contribution amounts of political donors. This became the animating force behind @EveryGOPDonor and @EveryDemDonor, bots whose only function is to publicize random political donors.

“Some people like it, they think it’s an interesting way to promote government transparency,” he said in a phone interview from Chicago, where he lives. “Some people don’t like it. They thought it was an invasion of privacy. Some people weren’t aware that this is publicly available data. They thought this information was hacked or something, but of course, that’s not the case.”

Adil Sadik, 25, made @ConstBot in response to a joke that suggested Trump would read the U.S. Constitution only if it were tweeted at him. His bot now does just that—so aggressively that it counts as Trump's fourth-most-active follower, by SocialRank's metrics. “I created this, half-jokingly, thinking he might see it,” said Sadik, who works in IT and lives in New York. “It tweets at him every hour, 20 minutes past the hour, until it gets banned.” @ConstBot, launched in February, has already made it through the Constitution once in full and started over again.

These bot makers tend to take an expansive view of their creations—even if, in the end, it just amounts to software harassing a social media account run by the most powerful man on the planet. “A lot of people talk about fake news,” said Kraft of his @EveryTrumpDonor bot, which is the president's 17th most-engaged follower. “And I like the fact that the bot just tweets fact and nothing more. It’s no spin, no analysis. It’s just a timeline of facts. That’s useful in today’s political debate.”

The Loyalists

Scott Presler has been tweeting at President Trump for months. He targets Attorney General Jeff Sessions, too, as well as White House adviser Kellyanne Conway. Sometimes, figures from the Trump administration even tweet back at the conservative political operative.

Presler, the 28-year-old field operations coordinator at ACT for America, a political group focused on national security, had 10,000 followers on Twitter a year ago; now @ScottPresler has more than 76,000 followers. A photograph of Presler and two friends holding a Gays for Trump poster was retweeted by General Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser who resigned in February. Conway even replied to a Presler tweet by tweeting, “God bless you all.”

“I’m pretty good at marketing myself on Twitter,” Presler said in a phone interview. “It’s using trending hashtags, replying to President Trump and top people.”

His time spent on Twitter is, in part, an extension of his work as a political organizer. “I truly believe in President Trump’s vision and message. What I’m trying to do now is positive and uplifting,” he said. “That’s one reason people come to my Twitter account. I don’t want to bring people down.” He replies to fellow Trump supporters as well as to Trump critics.

The person behind @TrumpsGucciGirl, who asked not to be identified by her real name, can claim the ultimate achievement for a Trump loyalist on Twitter: an interaction with @realDonaldTrump himself. In August 2016, GucciGirl posted about then-Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly, with whom Trump was engaged in a public feud. The future president copied and pasted her tweet into his Twitter feed for all his followers to see.

“It was kind of fun,” she said. “It's my pinned tweet!”

GucciGirl is on Twitter exclusively for @realDonaldTrump. She doesn't follow anyone else and doesn't plan to. The vast majority of her nearly 31,000 tweets are related to Trump. “I only follow him, because that's my only interest," she said. "I'm not on there to make friends. We all have our own lives.”

Her social media monomania encompasses all things Trump, from the serious (sanctions against Russia) to the trivial (the first lady's official portrait). She tweets while multitasking on her desktop computer. “I'm quite surprised; it becomes a little addictive,” she said. “I thought by the time the election was over, that would be the end of it."

Unlike other loyalists, @TylerDoor doesn't particularly love President Trump. He didn't vote for him and, in an interview in which he declined to use his real name, expressed some criticism of the president's demeanor. But few things Trump has done in office bother @TylerDoor nearly as much as the withering insults Trump receives from critics on Twitter. “The people would say, 'Little hands, you're a Nazi, you're a fascist, you have orange hair.' Things that—almost—a teenager would do," @TylerDoor said.

He noticed these attacks on the president appended just beneath the messages of @realDonaldTrump. “What's more disturbing is they were given a platform, that somehow Twitter gives them the top spaces,” @TylerDoor said. “I look at these people's profiles—they aren't famous people or political minds.” The sequence of replies follows an algorithm; Twitter was asked to specify how it ranks replies but did not respond to questions.

Instead of tweeting directly at Trump, which @TylerDoor believes wouldn't be seen by the president, he engages with detractors who tweet at the president. “Sometimes they respond, and then you get a dialogue going,” he said. “I just get so annoyed by the content of what they're posting."

The Haters

Christoph Rehage, 35, is one of the very Twitter users who annoy @TylerDoor. “Be honest, your mental template on Trump is no matter what he does, it's wrong,” @TylerDoor tweeted to @crehage earlier this week. “If you think he a villain [sic], you’ll see fault everywhere.”

Rehage, a writer who splits his time between Germany and Central Asia, claims the distinction of having been banned from Chinese social media for his satirical posts about politics there. Now he's engaging with @realDonaldTrump, whom he disdains.

“I don’t have much to do during the day,” he said. “I’ve kind of figured out the time he gets online to do his tweet thing.” Rehage is typically quick on the trigger when @realDonaldTrump pops up with a new message, and he threads his replies together to form a longer string of messages.” I try not to use any profanity, not insult anybody," Rehage said. “I try to expose a little bit of Donald Trump’s rhetoric and his way of thinking, the logical fallacies.”

Although Twitter won’t elaborate on whose replies get to appear directly beneath Trump's tweets, it seems that a combination of Rehage's speed and his status as a verified user make him highly visible—and therefore a presence to someone such as @TylerDoor. Since he began tweeting at Trump about a month ago, Rehage has gained about 25,000 followers. He views his social media output as fulfilling a moral obligation. “I think being apolitical and not making yourself heard is wrong now,” he said. “When Donald Trump turned into the president, I figured this is something I cannot ignore anymore.”

Jordan Uhl, 29, posts more than a dozen tweets in a day—almost every one about Trump. “He repeatedly said he wants to use Twitter to communicate with the people,” Uhl said of the president. “I’m one of those people. If he wants to talk to Americans via Twitter, Americans are going to talk back.”

Still, he doubts Trump has ever seen his messages. “It’s a cool thing that we can talk to elected officials, or at least pretend like we are.” Uhl, a Washington-based public relations director, has seen his Twitter following explode to nearly 50,000 since he took it on himself to reply to @realDonaldTrump. He thinks the correct approach is to remain on topic—making each reply something related to whatever Trump has said—and to avoid engaging with somber messages that the president might post after, say, a terrorist attack. “If he’s going to talk about policy, I will try to keep it like that,” Uhl said. “I think more people should do it.”

The Activists

Susan DeSantis is retired, her town in rural Pennsylvania is home to about 2,000 people, and her tweets are full of bright blue hashtags that signify the causes she cares about. The 62-year-old has tweeted at President Trump about 500 times under the name @Santis1De since late February.

Most of DeSantis’s output originates at her kitchen table, where she works for a few hours at a time on Twitter and Facebook as a volunteer on the "social media sharing team" for Revolution Truth, a nonprofit activist organization concerned with democratic governance. DeSantis identifies as an independent, and she's relatively new to Twitter, with only a handful of followers. Still, SocialRank metrics put her among the elite at interacting with @realDonaldTrump.

“I really had to laugh because, quite honestly, I had done a few tweets, I didn’t even really know that much about it,” she said of her status among Trump's biggest respondents. “I just went full force with it. This has been one of my first adventures as far as tweeting goes.”

Almost nobody replies to her Twitter messages—certainly not Trump, despite her prolific output. On Facebook, however, DeSantis has been known to engage in political arguments. “I try to handle it in a very diplomatic way,” she said. “I always try to think what’s good for people.”

Her life in a relatively isolated, rural place makes Twitter one of the only ways DeSantis can feel that she's participating in the sorts of marches she sees happen elsewhere. The only real-world protests accessible in her part of the country involve fracking, and she does make sure to turn up for those. “It’s easier for me, from my vantage point, to do it through social media and try to make a difference that way.”

The Comedians

The replies to President Trump’s tweets are full of jokes, more than few of which come from Kevin Dent.

“I try not to sound like I’m angry,” Dent said from his vacation home in Croatia. “A lot of people on Twitter just sound like they’re angry and pissed off.”

After doing well in the video-game industry, the 43-year-old Dent mostly retired and took up Twitter between golf rounds. He views tweeting jokes in response to Trump as a sort of civic duty, a way to possibly influence persuadable voters. Dent identifies as liberal. “I always found that you can change someone’s mind with humor, rather than shouting,” he said.

Dent believes his witticisms get results, assigning himself the low (and perhaps wildly optimistic) success rate of persuading 1 percent of the people he interacts with to reconsider their support for Trump. “But if I interact with a couple hundred thousand people throughout the year,” he said, “that’s maybe 2,000 votes.”

As for some of the most vehemently unpersuadable people he meets on Twitter, Dent declines to block anyone except for those who threaten violence in response to his humor. He has, however, fortified his social media accounts, finances, and properties against retaliation, something he learned to take seriously during the GamerGate controversy that roiled the world of video games in recent years. He has more than 9,000 followers on Twitter.

The failed push to repeal Obamacare, in particular, inspired Dent to increase his output of jokes aimed at Trump. He had skin cancer several years ago, and he said his insurance provider deemed it a preexisting condition because of a mole. “I’m a wealthy guy. I don’t have to worry about health care, but it has touched me,” he said. “Not everyone is as fortunate as I am.”

Dent has advice for anyone thinking about waging a campaign of comedic tweets: “I would just tell people to listen more on Twitter than react. I know I’m saying the exact opposite of what I’m doing, but I’m reacting, and it's taking me a second to tweet out something I think is funny. It’s not always funny, by the way. You don’t hit the mark all the time.”

The Eggs

Ah, the egg account. These are named after what for a decade—until last week, in fact—was a default logo assigned to users who had just activated a Twitter account. Some of these novices don't adopt a headshot or other image in place of the standard egg logo, and other users of Twitter came to associate the egg with all manner of aggressive and uncouth behavior. The connection between egg avatars and bad behavior was so entrenched that Twitter this month replaced the egg with a new design in an attempt to break the association.

The eggs are also strongly associated with @realDonaldTrump, although this almost certainly reflects Trump’s status as one of Twitter’s most popular and visible users. Trump boasts more than 7.5 million of these eggs among his followers, according to Social Rank. That’s about 28 percent of his total following.

“When you’re a big account, you add eggs,” said Alexander Taub, co-founder of Social Rank. There's also a strong association between inflated follower tallies and egg accounts. Taub suspects that some portion of the eggs following @realDonaldTrump might be less than authentic. “People also target you, and they might buy you egg followers,” he said.

The Ragers

The woman behind @TwitlerTroll started out as a Hillary Clinton volunteer in Chicago. After Trump won the election, “I kind of lost my mind,” she said. “I started having anxiety attacks, and I'm not that kind of person in general. It's just been sort of a release for me, to get my anger out.” Tweeting, she explained, is her “primal scream.”

These screams were answered back, on occasion, by screams from the other side. Trump supporters on Twitter “would get pissy with me, and I would get pissy right back.” @TwitlerTroll requested anonymity because she fears offline retaliation.

Venting on Twitter has helped, but she is aware of how she has changed. “I really have turned into a troll, which in a way makes me feel bad, but I'm only trolling people who deserve it," she said. "I don't spend a lot of time trolling him,” she said of Trump, "but I do spend a decent amount of time in conversations with people trying to enlighten them.”

More than an hour spent as @TwitlerTroll takes a psychological toll, too: “It was really starting to get to me," she said. “I actually got off of it for a week, just to take some Xanax and relax.”

Still, nothing will stop the woman behind @TwitlerTroll from tweeting at Trump and his supporters. “I will do everything I can possibly do to harass him until he goes running down Pennsylvania Avenue in his bathrobe.”

Sharon Ventura, a 70-year-old retiree, has also turned Twitter into a psychological release aimed squarely at the U.S. president. “Whether he reads it or not, I vent,” she said in her New Jersey accent. “By chance, he might see something. I hope it ruffles his orange skin. I have a serious problem with him. I’m too old for this shit.”

The accent and the colorful vocabulary comes across on Twitter, too, where Ventura deploys four-letter words and animated GIFs in her heated interactions. She's come a long way since October, when her nephew introduced Ventura to Twitter. “You gotta show me how this shit works,” Ventura recalled saying. “Now I’m an expert. After I got on, I was like, ‘Oh my God!’ This is a platform. There are other people who think like I do.”

Ventura has made friends on Twitter, exchanging phone numbers with people from across the country. “But there’s so much venom,” she said. Some of it even comes from @JimSha9, her account. She has been periodically suspended from tweeting, which she believes is the result of having tweeted obscenities at the accounts of politicians. At such times her rage might find an offline outlet, such as the time Ventura said she turned backward every issue of the National Inquirer in a grocery store rack when she saw a pro-Trump headline.

“I’m always angry,” she said. “My husband says, ‘You gotta calm down.’ And I can’t calm down. There are other people who think the way I do. I’m absolutely angry.”

Design, code and illustrations by Steph Davidson
Edited by Aaron Rutkoff