The sad, strange battle to be the top reply to Trump's tweets

Buzzfeed has an interesting piece today about the battle to be the first response to President Trump on Twitter. It turns out there are people on both sides of the aisle who have made this their mission, i.e. getting up at whatever hour and working Twitter’s algorithm to become the top response. It’s not just a battle for immediate bragging rights. Those who get the top spot frequently get thousands of retweets and quickly gain followers.

Adam Best is always ready for a new tweet from President Trump. The Austin-based entrepreneur — and founder of the site FanSided — has set his phone to notify him the second the president hits “send”; since it’s his only Twitter notification, he rarely misses it.

“There’ve been times I’ve been in bed and I’ll hear the alert and roll out of bed and start firing back,” Best told BuzzFeed News. Sometimes he’ll mock up a series of tweets on a subject in advance — say, the congressional investigation into the Trump administration’s ties to Russia — so he can copy them into an instant tweetstorm. For Best, a self-identified member of the anti-Trump #resistance, it’s a form of catharsis and a chance to “fight back” during what he calls a “particularly depressing time” in politics.

“Trump’s very predictable, so sometimes it’s just like ‘BOOM!’ Two minutes after Trump’s tweet I have a seven-part response that’s topical and engaging.”

Another resistance member named William LeGate made a name for himself by frequently being the first response to Trump’s tweets. LeGate only had a few hundred followers in January but gained over 100,000 new followers by successfully stalking Trump online. Buzzfeed doesn’t mention it, but just over a week ago, LeGate disappeared from Twitter. He may have deleted his own account or, as Heat Street suggests, it may have been hacked and deleted by someone else. In any case, he seems to be out of the running now.

Pro-Trump Twitter users are doing the same thing of course. Mike Cernovich tells Buzzfeed, “it’s an effective way for people who might be considered trolls by some people to get their message out and to build their brand.”

It’s not entirely clear what goes into making a tweet the top response to the President (or anyone else). Part of it is being first but Twitter also prefers multi-tweet responses and verified users. As Buzzfeed puts it, “almost all the top replies to Trump tweets come from verified users.” Apparently, Twitter believes users with a blue check mark improve the conversation, though this article seems to demonstrate that’s not always the case.