It’s 2016. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are standing across from one another on stage as NBC’s Lester Holt prepares to kick off the first of four presidential debates.
The event starts off per tradition, and the first few moments are filled with pleasantries and introductions. But then Trump answers the first official question.
The crowd is stunned by what they hear. Trump’s dropped all pretense and said he’s going to “build a wall” and that “Mexico is going to pay for it.”
In rebuttal, Secretary Clinton merely shrugs and says “no, totally. I like it. Let’s do that.”
She then steps to the edge of the stage where she proceeds to lead a round of applause for Trump, urging the crowd into an excited frenzy.
Trump leaves his podium to join Clinton. Together they stand at the center of the stage, their clasped hands raised high overhead in a triumphant moment of American unity.
That never happened
But, essentially, that’s what life is like on conservative social media sites. No, they’re not writing Trump/Clinton fan-fiction over on Parler, Gab, and GETTR.
At least that would provide some sort of controversy or drama. It’s just boring over there.
Without libs to own or opposing viewpoints to rally against, right wing social media sites are pretty much just a bunch of people with their backs to each other yelling different versions of the same message.
TNW’s Ivan Mehta recently penned an article wherein he wondered what the impending launch of Donald Trump‘s TRUTH social media would mean for conservatives on mainstream social sites.
Per Ivan’s article:
Earlier this week, Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene got permanently banned from Twitter and Facebook. So she and her supporters might be looking for a new home (beyond the likes of Gettr). We’re keeping an eye on the situation to see if the majority of the right-leaning leaders will move to this new social network.
It’ll be interesting to see how things play out. But, based on everything that’s ever happened in the history of tech, it’s very difficult to imagine how such an enterprise could flourish beyond a brief period of hype-driven enthusiasm.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot to be said for targeted marketing. MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell’s incredible success came on the back of the MAGA movement.
But My Pillow doesn’t compete directly with Facebook, Apple, Twitter, Microsoft, and Google.
When it comes to the business of technology, there are no special categories or exceptions for products or services just because they’re political in nature.
Even if 50% of all social media users were Trump supporters, the TRUTH network would have a smaller potential user-base than Facebook.
And Twitter boasts approximately 206 million users per day. Even if every conservative and independent in the US were to sign up for a right wing social media site, those sites would still be splitting a potential user cap that’s below Twitter’s current daily average.
That tells us two simple things:
- There’s a close-to-zero chance that big tech will buy out any of the current or soon-to-launch right wing social media sites. There’s no billion dollar payday at the end of the road for Parler or Gab like there was for Instagram and Tumblr
- An ad-based revenue system that’s meant to appeal to a singular demographic will be dependent on huge contracts and above-industry-average conversion rates for click throughs and purchases
That means right wing social media sites have to beat Twitter and Google at their own games without anywhere near the potential investment, capital, or predicted profits of those outlets. And with a fraction of the users.
How’s that going so far?
While we wait for TRUTH to launch, let’s take a look at GETTR. The home of such recent converts as Joe Rogan and MAGA faithful Marjorie Taylor Greene.
Rogan hasn’t posted on GETTR in over four days. For comparison, he’s posted several times a day on Twitter over the same period.
And Greene, well, she has two verified accounts on GETTR. One of them has 372K followers:
But 293K of those are actually Twitter users:
And her other account appears to have 626K followers, but it bears the same handle as her personal Twitter account, which has been permanently banned. We can’t tell if those numbers include the approximately 465K Twitter followers she had before the shutdown.
But a preliminary investigation by TNW demonstrated that the overwhelming majority of Greene’s followers appear to have no profile information and have never posted on the site.
The Trump effect
The TRUTH network has one thing going for it that GETTR, Gab, and Parler don’t: Trump. It comes with the promise that it’ll be the former president’s personal platform.
But, that’s the only promise that TRUTH can make good on for conservatives looking for a Trump-led media network with an uncensored environment featuring complete freedom of speech.
In fact, all of the most popular right wing social media sites have terms of service (TOS) that read like they’re straight out of big tech’s fine print.
Let’s check out GETTR’s TOS as an example:
Gosh! That’s almost identical to the TOS you agree to when you sign up to use a Twitter account.
And TRUTH almost surely won’t be a free-for-all either. You won’t be able to post bomb recipes, pornography, or illegal images. If you try to sell molly on TRUTH, you’ll probably get snitched out to the feds. If liberals sign up just to harass MAGA they’ll surely be banned, else the site will be overrun by left wing trolls.
Pretty much all of my leftist friends joined Parler to screw with MAGA folks, and every last one of them was banned in less than 24 hours because conservatives truly love free speech.
— Respectable Lawyer (@RespectableLaw) June 26, 2020
The simple fact of the matter is that the only difference between conservative social media and Twitter is that many MAGA enemies with Twitter accounts won’t have accounts on TRUTH.
It’s hard to get your account banned for harassing someone who isn’t on the platform you’re impotently attacking them from.
And therein lies the problem. There’s a reason why the UFC doesn’t ever have Kata exhibitions inside the cage wherein two fighters from the same team put on a no-contact technique clinic. It would be boring as hell.
All politics aside, if you want to take on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, splintering your audience into a demographic that’s only meant to appeal to “MAGA supporters who hate conflict” seems like a really poor way to go about doing it.
Make no mistake, Trump and his partners are likely to make money hand over fist with the launch of TRUTH. But comparing what TRUTH is trying to accomplish to what Twitter’s doing is like comparing what Reddit did with GameStonk to what Warren Buffet’s done with his big tech investments over the past 30 years.
At the end of the day, there’s no exit strategy for TRUTH. It’s built on open-source software. It’s only shot at long-term prosperity is to curate a boutique community of people who all subscribe to the same philosophy and seek to only interact with and purchase products and services from each other.
In other words: It has to convince people to give up iPhones, Amazon, and Netflix in favor of whatever technologically-inferior knockoff MAGA influencers are hucking.
The only thing conservative social media has to offer that its mainstream competitors don’t have is Trump’s posts. And we’ll be able to read those on millions of MAGA Twitter posts seconds after they’re posted on TRUTH.
In order to profit off a business model that involves capturing a tiny portion of an established industry leader’s user base, you have to either innovate and create a vastly superior product or rely on a steady stream of people willing to pay a premium for subpar products in the name of your cause.
When Apple launched the iPhone, for example, it was targeting a very small user base: techies with lots of money. There were a lot of touchscreen phones on the market, but none of them were as technologically advanced and innovative as the iPhone.
When Erik Finman launched the Freedom Phone, on the other hand, he was simply reselling a Chinese phone at a ridiculous markup in order to dupe MAGA fans out of their money.
No person in their right mind would favorably compare Finman’s knockoff security nightmare of a Freedom Phone to the iPhone, but I’m sure he made some money on it.
And the same goes for any social media network whose only innovation is being a less technologically-advanced version of Twitter or Facebook, but with Donald Trump posts
Getting people on TRUTH shouldn’t be a problem. MAGA is the longest running political party (in the dancing and music sense) in recent memory. Ain’t no hype like MAGA hype.
But the important question is whether users will want to spend their time on TRUTH, or any other right wing echo chamber, after a few months of cheering in the stands with no opposing team on the field.
If there are no libs to own or left-wing views to dispute, what’s the point?