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Trump on Snapchat? President's Expanded Social Media Presence Offers Pitfalls

Even though polling suggests an overwhelming majority of Americans want President Trump to curtail his social media presence, he's expanding it.
Donald Trump's Snapchat icon.
Donald Trump's Snapchat icon.Snapchat

Even though polling suggests an overwhelming majority of Americans want President Donald Trump to curtail his social media presence, he's expanded it — becoming the first U.S. president to formally join Snapchat.

The president, who has a very active (and sometimes factually inaccurate) presence on Twitter (where he has two accounts), Instagram and Facebook, will now be able to send videos and messages to his supporters on yet another popular platform, presumably in an effort to bypass the traditional press and to perpetuate his persona as a more accessible and unfiltered POTUS.

The news of Trump's latest foray into 21st century communication was met with incredulousness and bemusement by some social media users, who have already been reeling from a barrage of incendiary and unsubstantiated statements from the president's Twitter feed ever since he took office a week ago.

"There’s a risk of TMI and too much in-your-face. People go to Snapchat to escape, but more and more it’s becoming a place for news," Haley Overland, a senior editor of social media at Chatelaine and a popular Snap-chatter, told NBC News. "There’s no question Trump needs to be there, but he’d be well-advised to use it sparingly and with strict guidance, for the sake of over-saturation but most importantly security."

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And it has recently been reported that President Trump is still regularly using his personal, unsecured Android phone, raising alarms about hacking and other potential national security risks.

It may also be a violation of the law anytime he deletes a tweet — or a snap.

"Like any social media platform, impulsiveness is a problem. While stories and snaps disappear in 24 hours on Snapchat, they don’t actually disappear," said Overland. "Trump’s stories and snaps will be preserved and analyzed around the world. So he’ll have to be very careful with the images and photos he shares."

Dan Scavino Jr., the director of social media for the White House, confirmed that the president had joined Snapchat late on Thursday, but the new commander-in-Chief has dipped a toe in the platform's waters previously when his account shared videos on his inauguration day.

According to AdWeek, the Trump campaign also purchased national geofilter ad on Snapchat for Election Day last November, and he was the first presidential contender to buy a national filter that September ahead of the first general election debate, reportedly receiving 80 million views. He also ran a campaign last fall using the site's webview ads to direct users to a donation website.

Trump's predecessor, President Barack Obama was the first White House occupant to have a real presence on Twitter, first lady Michelle Obama joined Snapchat last July, and several lawmakers have begun using platforms like these to reach out to constituents and to campaign, but their social-media activity has paled in comparison to the 45th president, who is tweeting and re-tweeting on an almost hourly basis, albeit at times from dubious sources.

His social media messages have often accounted for the most infamous moments of his brief career as a politician — like when he shared an image of himself eating a taco bowl on Cinco de Mayo, his prolonged feud with newswoman Megyn Kelly, or more recently, when he promoted derided theories about the 2016 election being rife with illegal voting.

According to Mashable's Kerry Flynn, who has been covering social media for years, Snapchat may not be the most ideal format for the president to deliver policy statements to the broader public (it skews young, and its videos are harder to load and share widely), but that doesn't mean his participation can't be spun as boon to him and the platform.

"I think what' he's really showing us the power of his reach," she told NBC News. "He's not using the White House account, he's using his own. I honestly think it's just a typical Trump move of showing off his power."

And so far, Flynn believes the content on Snapchat has been far tamer than his Twitter, if for no other reason than its his aides filming the president instead of him recording himself.

"It might be more controlled," she said. "I don't think we'll be writing stories based on whatever he's snap chatting.

Related: How the New White House Keeps Bungling Social Media

"Snapchat is known for being not particularly user-friendly or intuitive — especially if you’re in the 70-plus demographic," added Overland. "So, I think he’ll fare OK if he has experts, in terms of working the thing. His username is verified, too. He may be getting some guidance from Snapchat staff."

Ironically, most of Trump's competitors during the 2016 GOP nomination fight were using Snapchat before he was. Now, with the president of the United States giving Snapchat his influential thumbs up, it could pay off in unexpected ways.

"It helps them in their storytelling to have the president be part of it," said Flynn. "[And] I think it's important, as president, to reach people where they are."