Radio host and TV commentator Dan Bongino built an army-sized following over the years on Twitter, with 2.4 million fans. In a few short weeks, he's attracted about a tenth of the same following on President Trump's nascent Truth Social platform.
But with millions fewer users and hundreds of thousands fewer followers, Bongino's Truth Social account — like those of scores of other conservative stars — is creating substantially more engagement on posts than his long-time audience on Twitter.
Thursday afforded the latest example. Bongino sent the same message out on both platforms to alert audience to his latest video podcast.
"Panic Breaks Out Over The Ukraine Bio-Labs Story," Bongino wrote on both platforms.
His giant Twitter audience created 554 likes and 185 retweets as of 7 p.m. EDT on Thursday. In contrast, his smaller sized audience on Truth Social tripled the engagement with 1,550 likes and 488 "re-truths."
"The traffic to the site and to the show is off the chart," Bongino told Just the News in an interview Thursday about Truth Social. "The engagement is extraordinary right now."
He also slammed mainstream media reports suggesting Truth Social was off to a slow start, saying such reports are disproven by engagement charts of its top users and belong in the same discredited trash heap of journalism as Russia collusion stories.
"A handful of liberal reporters get an account on Truth, can't attract any followers because no one wants to hear them, and then they report it isn't working," he said. "It's ridiculous journalism."
A survey of major figures who have both Truth Social and Twitter accounts found numerous examples of the Trump platform outperforming the engagement of the grand old daddy of 140-character tweets.
House Republican Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) tweeted out this message two days ago on both platforms: "Gas prices just hit the highest level in history. They've been going up ever since Biden started his war on American energy production a year ago."
The Truth Social version of his post attracted 3,780 likes and 1,460 re-truths, while the Twitter version only got 1,132 and 411, respectively, after a day on the sites.
Likewise, when I tweeted out a story Thursday on 20 confirmed cases of voting illegalities and irregularities, the post attracted just 871 likes and 551 retweets on Twitter by 7 p.m., while the exact same post on Truth Social produced 1,480 likes and 1,030 re-truths. My Twitter account has 866,500 followers, while my Truth Social account has just 24,700.
Conservatives say the early Truth Social anecdotes seem to support two theories they have had for year: Twitter has been throttling or shadow-banning some content, while new platforms that allow free speech are booming with engagement from people tired of the censorship.
“Truth Social has exposed just how censored conservatives have been over the past few years online,” conservative activist Charlie Kirk said Thursday night.
Fox News Host Sean Hannity, one of the most popular figures on both Twitter and Truth Social, told Just the News his social media team keeps commenting about how quickly and dramatically the level of engagement has gone up on Trump's platform while the same team has given up mostly on Twitter because it is "clearly now dominated by the radical left."
With a 15-year head start, Twitter has about 396 million worldwide users, and about 37 million of them are active daily in the United States. The latter is down from more than 60 million in 2019. Truth Social currently boasts a micro-fraction of that audience.
While Trump's media team has not announced any numbers, Truth Social is believed to have fewer than 1 million users onboarded and more than double that total waiting to get on in the first few weeks of soft launch and testing. It plans to open up to all users by month's end. The pace of new accounts has been accelerating to several thousand an hour.
Devin Nunes, the former congressman who took over in January as CEO of the Trump Media and Technology Group that launched Truth Social, said the new platform is performing at a high engagement level that rivals or exceeds Twitter for most users even though it has massively fewer customers.
Truth Social users are "actually posting something simultaneously on both sites," he told the "Just the News" TV show on Monday. "And then what they're doing is that they're then comparing it after an hour or two hours, or five hours or a day, and you can see the reach that you're getting with just the small audience that we have so far on Truth Social. I mean, it's just incredible."
Nunes, whose interview with Just the News was one of his rare media appearances during the launch, said another key early success of Truth Social has been its ability to verify users are real people and stamp out bots.
"What you're seeing is not only do we have real users that are real people, we also don't have what you see on the other platforms," he said. "And that is bots running around everywhere, where somebody is controlling 50 bots, 100 bots, and they dirty up your timeline with garbage. You're not seeing that on our platform."
Nunes said the company is on track to open up the platform to all users by end of March.
"I've said this from day one that I took this job that we are going to let people on as we are ready to let people on so that our technology is both quality and reliable," he said. "And that's still the plan. So if I could put everybody on tomorrow, snap my fingers, we would do it. But our team is working around the clock, they continue to work around the clock, and we continue to let more and more people on every single hour."
Truth Social's rapid strides come as a new era of tech executives create platforms like Rumble to rival YouTube and CloutHub to rival Facebook with a stronger commitment to free speech and a promise to eschew the kind of censorship that has become extensive on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.
Prominent mainstream reporters are taking note of the new ecosystem.
When Oliver Stone's new movie "Ukraine on Fire" was removed from YouTube, Rumble took it on, and it quickly drew hundreds of thousands of viewers in a move that captured the attention of Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Glenn Greenwald.
"This is why the platforms devoted to free speech are so vital — unless you want your world and the information you hear to be policed and controlled by Google executives, as seems to be true for many," Greenwald tweeted. "But for those who don't want that, this is crucial."