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What to expect from Donald Trump’s tweet-shaped presidency

Donald Trump campaigns in Colorado in October. (REUTERS/Carlo Allegri)

One-hundred-and forty characters at a time, President-elect Donald Trump revolutionized the way campaigns use social media.

Now he's looking to use it to shape his presidency in unprecedented ways.

As a 15-million-strong counterweight to media coverage and people he disagrees with, as a direct line of communication to his supporters and as a way to shape -- not just amplify -- his agenda.

"It's a great form of communication," he told CBS's Lesley Stahl in a "60 Minutes" interview that aired Sunday. "… I’m not saying I love it, but it does get the word out. ... I have a method of fighting back."

Trump told Stahl that he'd be "restrained" in what he tweets as president-elect and president. But his Twitter account suggests otherwise: Since getting elected last week, our future president has taken to Twitter at least four times to attack the media and at least once to criticize protesters:

Several hours later, he used Twitter to aim for a related goal: damage control.

Around this time last year, I spent days analyzing 6,000 Trump tweets -- pretty much every tweet he sent between launching his candidacy in June 2015 to his rocketing to the top of the polls by December.

I haven't analyzed every tweet Trump sent in the 11 months since then; I also haven't witnessed any major shift in his social strategy either. So with that caveat, here's a look at what I learned about how candidate Trump used Twitter and what it might tell us about what to expect from a Tweet-happy president.

He's relentless

Throughout an exhausting campaign schedule, Trump tweeted, at minimum, 10 times a day, nearly every day. On Oct. 31 2015 — a typical day in Trump's campaign — he tweeted 59 times.

Since winning the election, Trump has more or less kept up the pace. On Sunday, he tweeted seven times.

As my Fix colleague Philip Bump analyzed in August 2015, Trump is a late-night/wee-hours tweeter, too.

He focuses Twitter like a laser on his opponents

In December, while the presidential primary was still going on, I calculated about 11 percent of Trump's tweets were insults of or attacks on his opponents, the media, the Republican establishment and/or high-profile women.

One tweet was rarely enough to slam people Trump felt wronged by. Sometimes he'd criticize his opponents several times in a few hours -- and sometimes several times over a few days or even weeks.

The rest of Trump's 6,000 tweets I analyzed fell into one of these three categories:

1) Bragging about himself or self-promotion

2) A threat or an apology request to someone who wronged him.

3) Updating people on his schedule, whereabouts or conversations.

Twitter is his real-time message tester

From a distance, it sometimes seemed as if Trump's campaign was lurching from issue to issue — immigration, the refugee crisis, attacks on Christmas — seemingly based on whatever was popular at the moment.

But Trump was, for the most part, a disciplined and methodical candidate. His Twitter feed bares the same dichotomy: It's part of-the-moment, part incredibly deliberate. That's because Trump was using Twitter (and his rallies) to test messages in real time.

"Crooked Hillary," for example, became a campaign refrain for Trump and his supporters only after he had started using it on Twitter. Satisfied it resonated with his base, hardly a week went by without Trump calling her "Crooked Hillary" on Twitter.

He's obsessed with what people are saying about him

During the campaign, Trump's obsession with media coverage of him manifested on Twitter, where he'd criticize mainstream pundits who questioned his chances and praised those who didn't.

Sometimes he would try to influence coverage he knew was coming.

Now that the campaign is over, Trump has used Twitter to insult at least one news organization he felt covered him unfairly.

(His most recent New York Times tweets are misleading. As my colleague Callum Borchers points out, digital subscriptions to the Times has increased 35 percent since Trump launched his campaign in June.)

He's built a sense of community

Throughout the campaign, Trump appeared to spend more time in the "notifications" column of Twitter — where people are talking about and directly to him — than anywhere else.

He was digging through what must be an incredible volume of mentions (in addition to being arguably the most successful U.S. politician to use Twitter, he's often the most-talked-about politician on Twitter) and pulling out what he sees fit to retweet to his now-15 million followers.

Sometimes those retweets got him in trouble, like in July when he retweeted an account that appeared to have ties to white nationalism.

But Trump didn't stop sharing effusive praise from his supporters. Which brings me to my next point about Trump and Twitter:

He loves the sense of community he's bult

For all the trouble it's caused him, I've come to the conclusion that Trump primarily views Twitter as an opportunity to communicate with a community of people who unequivocally love him and see the world the way he does.

As he got further along in the campaign, he started to see Twitter as a cheaper alternative to spending millions on TV ads, since he could use his Twitter account to make news, or count on his supporters to retweet his message far and wide.

Trump even indicated that using Twitter helped him win the presidency.

"I think that social media has more power than the money they [the Clinton team] spent," he said on "60 Minutes," "and I think maybe to a certain extent, I proved that."

His earnestness to connect on Twitter in turn gave his followers the sense than anytime Trump tweeted, he was talking directly to them. It's a feeling of closeness, an aura of access, that Americans have rarely, if ever, had with a major party presidential candidate -- and now, an incoming president.