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How to Win a Twitter War

By Published on .

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto canceled a visit to the White House after President Trump used Twitter to reinforce his demand that Mexico pay for a barrier along the U.S. southern border.
Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto canceled a visit to the White House after President Trump used Twitter to reinforce his demand that Mexico pay for a barrier along the U.S. southern border. Credit: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

It's remarkable how many people are fighting on Twitter and Facebook these days. What is even more remarkable is how many social media battles end in one party unfriending or unfollowing the other. "I'll teach you to disagree with me!" [Hit unfollow or unfriend.] "There!" [Pause with an angry look on your face.] "Take that!"

Unfriending or unfollowing someone is not a win; it is a cowardly act of desertion. At that moment of self-hypnotic, self-righteous self-satisfaction, you have left the battlefield in abject defeat. In truth, your opponent has silenced you. You've left their world, never to return. Your opponent is the victor; you, the vanquished.

Can you ever really win a Twitter or Facebook war?

Yes, you can! Here, for your cyber-pugilistic pleasure, is a strategic primer that will make you invincible.

Strategy

Before you wage an SMW (social media war), you need to define what a "win" is. In victory, you will accomplish _____.

If your goal is to unfriend or unfollow everyone in your community who disagrees with your world view, stop reading this article now. Your current strategy is perfect.

However, if your goal is to assemble a community of like-minded people, or start a conversation that might change minds, or (if you believe you have the moral high-ground) definitively change minds (because you are right and your opponents are wrong), read on.

You are going to war, and wars have costs. So you have to base your strategic decision to wage an SMW on a cost/benefit analysis.

If you start a fistfight, expect to get hit. If you start a knife fight, expect to get cut. If you start a gunfight, expect to get shot. If you start an SMW, expect to have someone try to boil your blood, belittle your beliefs and personally attack your character in ways that would make a drunken, potty-mouthed psychopath proud. If these are not acceptable costs, do not start the war.

After defining what a win is and accepting the potential associated costs, it's time to get into the real strategic work of positioning yourself to win an SMW.

Antifragile Positioning

In his book "Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder," Nassim Nicholas Taleb opines, "Some things benefit from shocks; they thrive and grow when exposed to volatility, randomness, disorder, and stressors and love adventure, risk, and uncertainty. Yet, in spite of the ubiquity of the phenomenon, there is no word for the exact opposite of fragile. Let us call it antifragile. Antifragility is beyond resilience or robustness. The resilient resists shocks and stays the same; the antifragile gets better."

In pure social media terms, "Make America Great Again" is a perfectly antifragile tweet and a perfectly crafted response meme. From an SMW point of view, it is a strategic masterpiece.

[AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is not a political article. Please, please, please do not start commenting about politics here. This is an article about how to fight and win a social media war using an antifragile strategy. Please limit your comments and criticisms to that thesis. And yes, I know that Taleb's antifragile concept is a direct rip from George Soros's book, "The Alchemy of Finance." That's actually a great discussion starter. Thank you.]

@antifragile_originator:" _____ policy will make America great again."

@attacker: "I h8, with all that is holy, the new @antifragile_originator _____ policy."

@antifragile_defender: "@antifragile_originator is just trying to make America great again."

@antifragile_originator: "_____ policy is right; those who don't think so are dumb."

@attacker: "Has @antifragile_originator read _____? Doesn't he understand _____?"

@antifragile_defender: "@antifragile_originator is just trying to make America great again."

Let's analyze the above.

Tweet #1 has a well-defined cause and effect. The policy espoused will make America great again. Who doesn't want to live in a great America? You can't argue the fine points of what "great" might mean in 140 characters. You can't argue with the validity of the policy espoused in 140 characters. Pretty much all you can do is what Tweet #2 does, and that is disagree with Tweet #1. You can use your 140 characters any way you want. It won't matter. Tweet #1 is antifragile.

It doesn't matter who is right or who is wrong, because in social media terms, @antifragile_originator wins no matter what is being discussed. Count the number of times @antifragile_originator is mentioned in the example above. Now count the number of times everyone else is mentioned. If "going viral" is your goal, an antifragile strategy really works.

Now, think about the value of the virality with respect to messaging. There is almost no replacement for gross impressions. The more times you see something, the more it creeps into your psyche. "Reach" (how many unique people see a message) is the focus of most modern advertising and marketing schedules, but "frequency" (the number of times you see a message) has a huge value in terms of brand awareness, brand love and brand health.

The virality, or frequency, of putting @antifragile_originator's message in front of engaged users is key. The antagonists and the protagonists are equally engaged. Even people who don't care about the issue will be exposed to it because each circle of friends/followers is led by its social media thought leader. Every tweet, no matter who tweets it, is fully editorialized and endorsed by its tweeter.

Even better for the @antifragile_originator, people on the margins (those who might care about the issue but had yet to be exposed to it) are going to get an up-close, personal view of both sides. Better yet, those who might switch sides or are secret agents or are in the closet about the issue have now been engaged.

Employing an antifragile social media strategy is win, win, win. As Mr. Miyagi famously said in the movie The Karate Kid, "If do right, no can defense."

So, how can you execute against this insidious, awesome, winning strategy?

How to Win a Twitter War in 5 Easy Steps

Craft an antifragile messaging strategy, then

1. Pick an issue guaranteed to enrage your opposition.

2. Figure out how to make the issue truly binary, no matter how nuanced or subtle it is. Yes or No. You're with us or against us.

3. Craft a barrage of strategically related antifragile messages (marketers, pay attention here).

4. Keep the chaos going. (Brand safety? We don't need no stinkin' brand safety!) More tweets, more related enraging issues. More, more, more. Keep repeating steps 1–4.

5. Enjoy the increase in followers, virality, and the size of the community of like-minded people that has self-assembled around you.

Then, with all humility declare yourself the winner. If you do that with an antifragile tweet, you'll keep the cycle going, and one day, who knows? – you could be.

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