Donald Trump speaks to supporters during a rally to announce he is running for president (Charlie Neibergall, AP)

Donald Trump speaks to supporters during an Iowa rally after announcing he is running for president (Charlie Neibergall, AP)

Donald Trump is a very flawed presidential candidate,  but give the guy credit for this: He certainly knows how to generate buzz. The rambling, off-the-cuff tirade Tuesday that served as an announcement of his candidacy lit up Facebook with more chatter than anybody else in the field except Hillary Clinton.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote that Facebook users appeared to be getting bored of presidential announcements, as the number of people chattering about each new entrant into the field slowed to a trickle. Cruz, the combative Texas Republican, was the first to announce his candidacy and generated 5.5 million interactions on Facebook — likes, posts, comments and shares about the candidate — from 2.1 million users. It was a high watermark that no other Republican candidate came close to in the ensuing weeks. Serious presidential contenders like Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and former Florida governor Jeb Bush generated less than half as much conversation as Cruz. Long shots like South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham generated chatter from fewer than 100,000 people.

Then along comes Trump. On Tuesday, 3.4 million Facebook users in the U.S. generated 6.4 million interactions regarding his announcement, the social media service announced. Only Clinton has generated more buzz on Facebook, with 4.7 million users producing 10.1 million interactions about her the day she announced.

Trump is made for Facebook, of course. He is essentially a showman and entertainer for a living, a reality TV star and an unpredictable wild card in politics. The Facebook data makes no effort to assess sentiment, so there is no way of knowing how many of the posts about Trump were negative or sarcastic. And his announcement was full of shareable zingers like “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you . . . They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with (them). They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”

But Trump’s Facebook splash is part of the problem he poses for the Republican field. He can simply dominate a conversation and grab the attention of the audience, even if most of the audience has no intention of voting for him. Trump is, in essence, a very entertaining distraction from the business of choosing a presidential nominee.