Using Twitter For Politics
What I learned at the Twitter For Politics Event
Over the summer, I attended a Twitter for Politics event (#twitter4politics) hosted by Twitter for people working in politics in the digital space. In addition to the great breakfast buffet and top-notch swag (#TweetfeetPolkaDots), the speakers had a lot of great insights into the best ways to use Twitter to improve your public profile. My favorite talk was with Senator Chris Murphy and Representative William Hurd. They talked about how they use Twitter to connect with their constituents beyond political issues. By starting a dialogue with voters on less polarizing issues, they found that they could have more meaningful exchanges with them overall.
Talk About Your Life:
Politicians know that everyone has a smartphone now, and every action they make or word they say could end up on the Internet in seconds. A lot of candidates seem to respond to the constant media attention by withdrawing and refusing to comment on anything without a full debriefing from their team. It's easy to understand their fear about speaking off-the-cuff, but the result is appearing dull and robot-like. Using Twitter for politics offers a great space to interact with voters in a less formal way.
Senator Chris Murphy and Representative William Hurd agreed that engaging with their constituents on non-political issues, like the Boston Red Sox and Taylor Swift, helped open a dialogue. Here is an example: Representative Hurd is a big Taylor Swift fan. When he saw a tweet from Representative Martha Roby that showed her interns offering to give the pop star a tour of the Capitol, Hurd responded with an offer to personally escort T-Swift around. He got a lot of responses on Twitter and he credited those kinds of tweets with helping him communicate better with his constituents.
Senator Murphy used Twitter to describe the "26 acts of kindness" he performed to honor the memory of the people who lost their lives at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The acts were small, like buying coffee for the people behind him at Dunkin Donuts or feeding parking meters, but they had an effect on the people of his state. He said that a lot of people saw his tweets, and decided to do their own 26 acts. Through the use of Twitter, the community came together to commemorate a tragedy in a way that anyone could participate in.
Use Your Mistakes:
You will probably say something inaccurate or possibly even offensive at some point online, but that doesn't have to mean the end of your political career or Twitter account. In 2011, Senator Murphy tweeted a link to a Rolling Stone interview with Justin Bieber after reading a quote from Bieber lauding the Canadian health care system.
Unfortunately, Senator Murphy didn’t read the whole article and missed Bieber's strong anti-choice views on abortion—views that are not in line with his party nor his constituents. After his team brought this issue to his attention, he sent out another tweet within the hour using the hashtag #bieberfevercured. The story broke across the media, and suddenly a senator who was relatively unknown to people outside of his state was news across the country. This kind of attention could be terrifying to a politician, but his quick and humorous response to a sudden mistake led to a surprisingly positive interaction on social media.
As we look to the future, Twitter is playing a key role in the 2016 Presidential elections. For a lot of the current candidates, Twitter offers them an additional opportunity to voice their opinions and attack their opponents.
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