Donald Trump’s social media ties to white supremacists have come under increasing scrutiny. The reason is simple: In the 2016 election, social media is a critical part of communications and electoral involvement.
If social media popularity were the deciding factor, Donald Trump would walk away with the presidency. He has more than 7 million followers on Twitter, 1.2 million on Instagram, and roughly 6.6 million likes on Facebook — far ahead of any competitor, Democrat or Republican
The reason for the big numbers in large part is that the campaign “gets” social media. “‘[H]e is way better at the Internet than anyone else in the GOP which is partly why he is winning,” Dan Pfeiffer, a former senior adviser to Barack Obama, tweeted in September 2015.
Campaign spokesperson Hope Hicks has said that Trump largely runs his Twitter account by himself. But there are two insiders behind the scenes.
Justin McConney, who holds the title of director of new media for the Trump Organization, oversees both the company’s and Trump’s personal social media and new media. He is also involved with social media for the campaign, advising and creating video content.
A former top Trump political adviser, Sam Nunberg, who was allegedly fired by the campaign for racist Facebook posts, told Politico last October that “Justin McConney has his ear to the social media world, and he’s ahead of the curve” and that he was “innovative, well-connected and always thinking about how to push the envelope.”
In an interview with TheDrum.com, McConney explained the posting procedure. He would see Trump in the morning and they would plan what to post, then Trump would write.
Dan Scavino has been the director of social media for the Trump campaign since July 2015, according to an email to Fortune from campaign spokesperson Hope Hicks. He is on the road and posts on social media from the campaign trail. A February 2016 campaign press release said Scavino had “managed the campaign’s social media efforts working directly with Mr. Trump” and described him as a “longtime Trump confidant.”
Scavino didn’t respond to a request for comment. Hicks responded to some specific questions with emailed statements. McConney acknowledged an email but would not agree to be quoted for this story.
McConney’s father worked at the Trump Organization for a reported 28 years; he is currently the company’s controller. The younger McConney got a degree in film and video from Manhattan’s School of Visual Arts in 2008 and then, in 2009, became an assistant editor at the Trump-owned Miss Universe and Miss USA beauty pageants. He then worked as an “apprentice editor” on The Apprentice and joined the Trump Organization as social media director in 2011.
According to an interview McConney gave to advertising and marketing site The Drum in September 2015, Trump, in 2011, had just 300,000 Twitter followers and 100,000 followers on Facebook. By the time of the interview, he said there were 4 million followers on both Twitter and Facebook.
At the age of 16, in 1992, Scavino started working at the Briar Hall Country Club, which would become the Trump National Golf Club, in Westchester County, New York, according to his LinkedIn page. He caddied for Trump, among other jobs.
After receiving a B.A. in communications from the State University of New York at Plattsburgh in 1998, Scavino worked for a few years in sales, first for a Coca-Cola bottler and then for a pharmaceutical manufacturer.
In 2004 he rejoined the Trump National Golf Course as assistant manager, according to an interview with Hudson Valley Magazine. He worked his way up to executive vice president by 2008, according to a company press release. In the Hudson Valley interview, Scavino said he spoke with Trump daily and accompanied him “every other weekend” to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.
He left the Trump Organization in March 2013, according to his LinkedIn profile, and became director of development at the Joe Torre Safe at Home Foundation in September of the same year. Scavino left the foundation in 2015 and started a PR firm with a website created in April 2015, according to registration records.