Varadkar’s social media strategy focuses on image building

Earlier this week Donald Trump was railing at the media on Twitter for calling him out about his moral equivalence on race hate.

“Made additional remarks on Charlottesville and realize once again that the #Fake News Media will never be satisfied . . . truly bad people!,” he harrumphed.

A few hours away, in Chicago, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar replied to an Irish student who tweeted about how mortified she at not knowing who he was and making him wait at a tiny restaurant table.

“Thanks Emma,” he wrote. “The food & service was gr8. Enjoy the rest of your J1.”

Emma Kelly tweet: “Painfully awkward pic of us and Leo when I realised it was the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.”

Both posts had huge traction with the public. There were voluminous shares and retweets. There the similarities end. When you start parsing the content, they could have been posted from different universes.

Trump has brought a particular way of using Twitter to stratospheric heights. He uses it as a direct, bludgeoning, bullying pulpit to air controversial views and attack critics and enemies. By virtue of his position, every vitriolic pronouncement he makes on the platform becomes instant global news.

With Varadkar, it would take a gargantuan effort to make news out of anything he writes on Twitter, especially since he became taoiseach. Sure, policy and positions are stated, but it’s all safe and a bit bland.

That’s missing the point of his social-media presence. Increasingly for Varadkar, the 140 characters are almost incidental. Like many other younger political leaders, the Taoiseach’s social media strategy focuses largely on image. As time goes on, that will mean more video.

Young, energetic image

It gives an opportunity to a media-savvy Taoiseach to project an image of a young energetic leader, a digital native, a man of action in rolled-up shirt-sleeves, who is a natural when it comes to mingling with people.

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